Hampshire turned in one of their best batting displays of this year’s Friends Life t20 to claim a thrilling five-wicket win over Essex and book their place in the quarter-finals.
After Essex posted a mighty 182 for five from their 20 overs, the Royals responded with a tremendous batting display as Michael Carberry (54), Sean Ervine (36) and the unflappable Neil McKenzie (29 not out) got them over the line with four balls to spare in front of another bumper Ageas Bowl crowd.
While McKenzie hit the winning runs, Carberry was the key man once again for the Royals with some awesome strokes in his knock.
But just when he appeared to be winning the game single-handedly, the opener was adjudged caught behind – although his reaction suggested he didn’t agree, with several gestures indicating he had hit the ground and not the ball.
However, McKenzie and Ervine then picked up where he left off, even if the Zimbabwean was bowled in the penultimate over – moments after Essex conceded a crucial six penalty runs for a slow over rate.
In the Eagles’ innings, Hamish Rutherford (22) looked in imperious form until he was dismissed by a quite brilliant catch from Carberry, who raced in from the boundary to take a full-length diving catch inches above the turf.
But Essex then turned to Owais Shah (68), who led the charge against the Hampshire bowlers with finesse as well as power. Some of the former England man’s wristy shots were sublime as he found the boundary with what looked like a merest flick of the bat – one six in particular soaring off into the distance.
He looked well on course for a match-winning score until he picked up a leg injury when he was on 33 and was then forced to bat with a runner until he was eventually undone by a Dimi Mascarenhas slower ball.
Ryan ten Doeschate (28 not out) then boosted the total, firing one David Griffiths delivery into the adjacent nursery ground but it was not enough to defend successfully.