HAMPSHIRE’S Natwest T20 Blast hopes suffered another major setback at the hands of a former Ashes winner and one of their former players.
Geraint Jones – the former England wicketkeeper who played such a sigificant part in the famous 2005 Ashes series – celebrated his 39th birthday with a vital knock in tough batting conditions as Gloucestershire sealed a five-wicket win at Cheltenham.
And Benny Howell then struck the winning runs to drag his side over the line and complete the victory that leaves Hampshire in real danger of missing out on quarter-final qualification for the first time since 2008.
In a low-scoring contest, Hampshire mustered just 116 all out as they lost the toss in overcast conditions.
Wih the pitch offering assistance to the bowlers, skipper James Vince top-scored (32) while Craig Miles (three for 25) shone for the home side.
But Hampshire then got themselves back in the hunt as they reduced Gloucestershire to 44 for four in reply before Jones (40) and Benny Howell (31 not out) added 61 in what proved to be the pivotal partnership.
It meant defeat was confirmed with eight balls to spare as Hampshire were left to wonder what might have been with another 25 runs on the board.
Hampshire’s batsmen were already lacking in confidence after their recent struggles and their mood wasn’t helped with a cautious start to the contest.
A six from Michael Carberry (12) and some sweet drives from Vince were rare shots in anger during a power play that yielded just 38 runs.
Carberry was bowled by Miles in the third over, the ball after his six, and Adam Wheater (10) was content to push singles to give the strike to Vince, the one batsman who appeared at home.
The captain had moved to 32 when caught at long-on off Howell (two for 15) with the score at 57 in the ninth over.
Wheater fell in the same over – a double wicket-maiden for Howell – before Owais Shah (six) drove a catch to long-off to give Jack Taylor a wicket before Tom Smith claimed his 23rd victim of the competition as Sean Terry (one) was bowled on the back foot.
Will Smith (18) provided brief acceleration but wickets continued to tumble and Hampshire managed only 13 off the last four overs, with last man Jackson Bird being run out off the final ball.
Gloucestershire then struggled in reply as Bird dismissed Michael Klinger (nought) before Ian Cockbain (10) was run out.
Chris Dent (23) clipped Chris Wood straight to Joe Gatting at mid-wicket and Danny Briggs then bowled Peter Handscomb (seven).
But Jones steadied the ship with some confident strokes before he was bowled by Vince late on, which left Howell to finish the job.