Hampshire finally saw their unbeaten run in the Friends Life t20 campaign come to an end at Essex last night – despite Shahid Afridi’s long-awaited debut.
The Pakistan all-rounder made his bow and turned in a decent spell, grabbing his maiden Royals wicket with the ball. But he failed with the bat, scoring just two as Dominic Cork’s side went down by 26 runs.
Tim Southee’s blistering 74 had fired the Eagles to 162 for seven from their 20 overs. But while James Vince hit 52, the Royals were all out for 136 in the 19th over.
Without an incredible onslaught from Essex pinch-hitter Southee, the visitors would have faced a run chase that would not have caused their under-11s too many problems.
But as it was, the New Zealander chanced his arm and swung the bat with menace to keep the Eagles ticking along at a rapid rate.
As Southee hammered each of his six fours and five sixes on his way to a 34-ball 74, Vince’s shoulders sunk more and more after he dropped a steepling catch in the second over when the batsman was on just six.
Imran Tahir (one for 22) combined with Nic Pothas to stump the dangerman. And with Afridi (one for 23) also in miserly form with the ball, he celebrated his first wicket in a Royals shirt in trademark style when Adam Wheater skied one to Sean Ervine.
But it was the loss of Southee that saw the Eagles lose all their momentum and only a bright 33 from Tim Phillips boosted their total.
Hampshire’s reply failed to really fire throughout as they found themselves behind the run rate early on.
Jimmy Adams (five) was the first man to depart, drilling straight to the fielder in the second over, while Benny Howell (10) scratched around until his attempted big shot was caught on the boundary.
Neil McKenzie (25) played with his usual intelligence in a 39-run partnership with Vince until he was caught by Southee from a full toss that should have been despatched to the rope.
And when Sean Ervine (three) followed soon afterwards, Afridi was asked to rescue his new team-mates, only to depart almost as quickly as he arrived.
The game looked up for the Royals as Pothas was next in the procession of wickets as the Royals found themselves 95 for six.
Their hopes were then dashed further when the brilliant Vince was bowled for a fine 52 from 44 deliveries.
Cork rallied briefly with Dimi Mascarenhas (12), but when the latter perished, the Royals still needed 36 runs from the final 18 balls, only for the skipper’s brave effort to end the innings when he was caught by Southee.