Quite where Hampshire would be without Neil McKenzie is anyone’s guess.
The South African batsman once again dug his team-mates out of a mighty hole to guide the Royals to a five-wicket Friends Life t20 win at Sussex.
Chasing a modest target of 145 for six, the Royals were making decidedly hard work of it and left themselves needing 12 runs from the final over.
But McKenzie’s fabulous unbeaten 71 saw him crack two boundaries and profit from four bonus overthrows in the final over as he led the defending champions to a dramatic second win of their t20 campaign.
Sussex had made a flying start to the match but it was a tremendous fightback from a trio of Hampshire bowlers – Chris Wood, Danny Briggs and Liam Dawson – that restricted them to a lowly total.
Dimi Mascarenhas and Sohail Tanvir had been on the receiving end of some fearsome early treatment as the Sharks raced away to 45 without loss in four overs.
But Wood (one for 22) then started to claw things back as he cleaned up the dangerous Luke Wright (17), before Briggs (two for 19) entered the fray in the next over – picking up an easy caught and bowled to dismiss Chris Nash (23).
When Dawson (two for 16) nabbed Dwayne Smith, the Sussex wheels had effectively ground to a halt, limping to 82 for four at the midway point and then adding just 18 runs in the next five overs as Scott Styris (39 not out) played a sedate knock.
But it was the tight bowling that really strangled the Sussex batsmen, who looked like they had decided they weren’t prepared to risk chasing boundaries.
There wasn’t even much of a late flurry to the innings, either, as Sussex reached 145 for six at the close – some way down on the predictions of 200-plus that had been voiced early in the innings.
In reply, Hampshire recovered from the early setback of losing James Vince to a duck as Michael Carberry clicked into cruise control.
The left-hander oozed class and belief as he reached 50, but the game was back in the balance as he was dismissed.
Yet McKenzie showed his worth once again, displaying his usual calm authority in another classy match-winning knock.