Hampshire’s Royal London One-Day Cup campaign began in defeat as James Foster used his experience to edge Essex over the line in a three-wicket win at the Ageas Bowl.
Veteran Foster scored a cool unbeaten 36 to help Essex notch 29 from the last three overs – after Tom Westley had registered his third List A century.
Given 311 to chase after electing to bowl first, Essex attacked their reply, needing less than nine overs to reach 50 – but soon after lost Nick Browne when he gave Ryan Stevenson his first List A wicket.
Westley and Jessie Ryder kept the score ticking over at exactly a run a ball – the former collecting a watchful half century from 66 balls, reaching the landmark with back-to-back leg-side clips.
Ryder reached his fifty in a quicker 53 balls, before Westley was dropped on 69 by Liam Dawson at mid-on.
The duo were otherwise untroubled before Ryder was stumped by Wheater after a nice tempter by Mason Crane – the partnership ending on 143, the New Zealander scoring 71.
Ravi Bopara, run out by Crane, Dan Lawrence and Ryan ten Doeschate, both caught behind, then all fell within six runs to stunt Essex’s progress and swing the game back towards the hosts.
Westley (110) reached three figures with a brilliant on-drive down the ground, his third format ton, before he skied Gareth Andrew straight up, to return to the dressing room just one short of his best score.
Ashar Zaidi added another twist to the game, swinging hard with Foster in an 18-ball 30 stand before departing after losing his wicket for 41 to put the game on a knife edge.
But Foster and David Masters ran and hit hard, along with some wayward death bowling to win with three balls to spare with a boundary over midwicket.
Earlier, Adam Wheater’s peerless 90 against his old county helped Hampshire to 310 for four – a seemingly winnable score having never failed to defend 300.
The wicketkeeper put on a club-record second-wicket stand of 176 with the impressive Tom Alsop, who was forced to retire ill for 83.
Jimmy Adams had lasted until just the second over before he feathered an attempted pull shot through to Browne at first slip.
Wheater reached a classy half-century from 71 balls before Alsop met him at the milestone little more than five minutes later but in a speedier 57 deliveries.
Alsop in particular looked effortless at the crease, with the ball gliding off his bat beautifully on the back of his maiden first-class fifty against Nottinghamshire a fortnight ago.
Wheater, a former Essex academy player, was faultless getting to 90 – summed up with a confident thrash through the leg side to the boundary – but he departed to end the 176-run stand, mistiming to Bopara at mid-off.
Skipper Sean Ervine and Liam Dawson then upped the run rate, with a 74-run partnership – the former eventually bowled by ten Doeschate.
Dawson did move to fifty, although lost Andrew to a boundary catch in the process, from 45 balls.
Dawson ended his unbeaten 70 with a flurry, including a delightful four and clubbed six, but it was not to be enough.