Home or away - Afridi just wants to win

Shahid Afridi. Picture: Dave Vokes / LMI Photography
Shahid Afridi. Picture: Dave Vokes / LMI Photography
George Bailey is bowled for a duck against Essex. Picture: Neil Marshall

Hampshire fall to Essex loss

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Hampshire attempt to break new boundaries at the Rose Bowl tonight.

South-coast rivals Sussex Sharks pay Giles White’s Royals a visit in the Friends Life t20 (7.10pm).

The two sides are locked in combat at the top of the south group, with the visitors ahead of the Royals courtesy of net run-rate alone.

Hampshire, though, are on a hot streak.

They have not been beaten in a t20 fixture on home turf since they entertained Middlesex on July 16 last season.

They followed up that thumping eight-wicket reversal with a 45-run win over tonight’s opposition.

Dominic Cork & Co went on to lift the domestic t20 crown on home turf before a flying start to the defence of that title has seen them stretch their winning streak to seven matches.

It is a record home run for the club in the popular competition, which began back in 2003 with their five-run victory over the Sharks.

Skipper Cork has often spoken of turning Hampshire’s home ground – which hosted its first-ever Test match earlier this month – into a fortress.

The Royals’ only defeat in t20 this summer came last Thursday against Essex Eagles at Chelmsford – a ground well known for striking fear into visiting sides through the partizan home support. They bounced back just 24 hours later as Shahid Afridi produced a match-winning display with the ball against Gloucestershire.

The Pakistan all-rounder’s five for 20 crushed the Gladiators and ensured Hampshire rejoined Sussex at the top of the table as the race to qualify for the knockout stages begins to hot up.

An eighth straight home win will see the Royals resume pole position with an outright lead in the group.

And that would be a remarklable feat given the two-point pitch penalty they were hit with after a disastrous clash with Somerset at the Rose Bowl last season.

Afridi would love to see Hampshire continue to delight their home fans and set a new record with a derby success tonight. And while he recognises the need to perform well in front of the home faithful, the 31-year-old leg-spinner believes his new club are a match for anyone wherever they play.

‘Every game we play is important to us,’ said Afridi.

‘Obviously if you are playing at home it is important to do well for the crowd.

‘They seem to be enjoying their cricket at the moment.

‘But definitely if you are able to win matches away from home then it can really boost the team as well.

‘It is a very good sign if you can perform well and win a game away from home. So I’ll be trying my level best to win cricket matches for Hampshire, whether they are at the Rose Bowl or outside.’