Hampshire suffered their heaviest-ever Natwest T20 Blast defeat tonight as they were beaten by 80 runs by dominant Surrey at a packed Kia Oval.
The hosts were indebted to debutant Dominic Sibley, who starred with both bat and ball as they moved top of the South group with a one-sided victory.
But for the visitors, defeat on the field was put firmly into perspective by the news of the tragic death of Hamza Ali.
Indeed, Hampshire’s players all wore black armbands in memory of the 20 year-old who made a first-class appearance for the county earlier this season but tragically drowed on Wednesday night while swimming in the River Avon.
Last night’s game went ahead, though, with Sibley the star of the show.
The 20-year-old making his T20 bow, took two for 33 after scoring a fine 67 in a second-wicket stand of 114 in 10 overs with Kumar Sangakkara.
For his part, Sangakkara’s 72 off only 35 balls featured two sixes, nine fours and a balmy evening’s most memorable strokeplay.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Surrey’s 188 for five proved too much for Hampshire, who were already struggling at 38 for four after the initial six-over powerplay and eventually subsided to 108 all out.
Zafar Ansari hastened the visitors’ demise by dismissing Will Smith and Darren Sammy in successive balls at the end of the ninth over.
There was no Shahid Afridi for Hampshire, either, with the Pakistan T20 specialist pulling out of the game through illness.
For visiting director of cricket Giles White, it was a telling omission, although excuses were few and far between.
He said: ‘We have been dealt a tough hand this evening with the injuries we have and with Shahid Afridi pulling out with illness.
‘But we can’t use that as an excuse and we just have to bounce back.’
Surrey, though, hardly needed any contribution from their own second overseas player, West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, who was making his debut for the club and only delivered four balls right at the end of the game – one of them a no-ball bouncer.
It was Surrey’s third win in four group games but, for Hampshire, it was a fourth defeat from five matches and quarter-final qualification already looks a difficult task for them as they bid for a record seventh successive appearance at Finals Day.
Despite this match starting soon after the opening day’s play between England and Sri Lanka in the third Test ended at Lord’s, six miles to the north across the Thames, a crowd of almost 17,000 turned up – with a few spectators no doubt managing to attend the two matches!
Whatever, the fact that around 45,000 people watched international and county cricket in London on the same day proves the continuing popularity of the game at both levels.
Jimmy Adams uppercut the third ball of Hampshire’s reply for six over backward point but dragged Sam Curran’s next ball on to his stumps and Adam Wheater departed for eight when he was bowled trying to make room to hit a leg break from Sibley square on the offside.
Sibley had figures of 2-0-9-1 after bowling the second and fourth overs, and both the fifth and sixth overs brought further Hampshire wickets as Sean Ervine edged a drive behind off Ravi Rampaul and Liam Dawson was also out for one, bowled as he heaved at Tom Curran.
Ansari reduced Hampshire to 52 for six by having Smith held in the deep and Sammy caught by keeper Ben Foakes for a first-ball duck.
And when Sibley returned to the attack he had Lewis McManus caught at deep square leg for 41 one ball after being struck for six.
After that, there was some defiant blows from Gareth Andrew in a 22-ball 31, ended by an athletic leaping boundary catch by Bravo, celebrated by an impromptu jig facing that section of the crowd.
Bravo then followed that up by having Ryan Stevenson caught behind with his second ball and last man Tino Best held at mid-off from his fourth ball.
Jason Roy fell for nine in the fourth over of the game, caught at mid-off from a leading edge as he aimed something violent at Sammy’s medium pace.
Surrey’s innings was soon galloping along, however, as Sangakkara and Sibley matched each other stroke for stroke until the great Sri Lankan surged ahead to reach his half-century first from a mere 24 balls.
Sibley soon followed his partner to the landmark, from 35 balls, and his fifty included sixes flicked over mid-wicket off an Andrew over costing 16 and lofted straight against Dawson’s left-arm spin.
Sangakkara, who earlier clubbed Smith’s off-breaks for six, slog-swept Sammy for his second maximum before, later in the same 14th over, mis-hitting to long on.
Bravo edged Stevenson to the keeper after making only three, and Sibley’s fine innings ended in the 17th over when he was held on the ropes attempting to swing fast-bowler Best beyond the mid-wicket boundary.
Tom Curran fell cheaply to Stevenson, but the seamer – also making his T20 debut – conceded two legside sixes in the 20th over with Ansari clearing long on and Rory Burns producing a superb pick-up over mid-wicket as 16 runs came from the final six balls of the innings.