Sean Ervine’s first half-century of this season’s Friends Life t20 saw Hampshire see off plucky Middlesex by eight runs and set up a quarter-final at home to Lancashire next week.
Ervine hit an unbeaten 60 at the Ageas Bowl as the Royals, already assured of top spot, ended the group stage in style.
The Zimbabwean shared a stand of 101 in 9.5 overs for the fourth wicket with consistent veteran Neil McKenzie, who made 47 not out, as Hampshire accelerated over the second half of their innings to reach a formidable 190 for three.
But Middlesex, who needed to win to stand any chance of qualifying for the latter stages, were undaunted and came desperately close to causing an upset by finishing with 182 for seven thanks to Joe Denly’s belligerent 67 and a rapid 29 from Eoin Morgan.
The Royals’ victory was their eighth from 10 South Group matches. Their only defeat was by Essex and they had make do with a point from a washed-out match, also against Essex at Chelmsford.
Even more encouraging for the defending champions is that they were able to secure the win without the help of Michael Carberry this time around.
The prolific opener was dismissed for five runs to Kyle Mills after Hampshire won the toss.
James Vince (28) was also removed by Mills to leave the hosts at 89 for three at the halfway stage.
But then Ervine and McKenzie came together and Middlesex quickly saw the initiative snatched away from them, Ervine hitting four sixes and four fours in a 34-ball innings.
When Middlesex responded, Paul Stirling and Dawid Malan each contributed to a feisty start and the innings gained impetus when England’s Morgan, playing only his second match in this year’s competition, joined Denly in raising hopes of an unexpected outcome.
Morgan and Denly put on 58 in seven overs but Morgan’s innings ended with an indecisive chip shot to Jimmy Adams at mid-on at 104.
And for all Middlesex’s later aggression, the target was always beyond them.
Denly was last out at 181 from the penultimate ball, caught behind off Chris Wood but it was a brave knock by the middle order batsman in which he struck three sixes and three fours off 44 balls.
Middlesex’s failure to win let in Essex in third spot despite their defeat by Surrey, who also move into the last eight as group runners-up.