Essex Eagles 13-month unbeaten run brought to an end by Hampshire
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
Ian Holland held his nerve as Hampshire ended Essex Eagles’ 13-month unbeaten run in all competitions.
All-rounder Holland snuck Hampshire over the line with a ball to spare to eke out a nervy five-wicket victory, having needed six off the final over.
Essex - who had been stunted by Mason Crane’s impeccable three for 18 - hadn’t tasted defeat since they lost to Somerset in the Vitality Blast on August 7 last year, although they are still winless as holders.
In reply to Essex’s laboured 139 for six, Hampshire rode their luck in the early stages at the Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford.
Scotland international George Munsey was dropped by Ryan ten Doeschate on nine, running back from point, and again on 12, this time by Tom Westley at mid-off.
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His opening partner Tom Alsop was also given a life when Varun Chopra put down a one-handed reaction-effort at first slip.
Simon Harmer did make the breakthrough when Alsop – having struck the off-spinner for a four and six – was caught on the reverse by Westley, who appeared to dislocate his little finger in the process.
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On a pitch being used for the third time, timing, and therefore scoring was difficult for both sides – with Hampshire reaching 64 for one at the halfway point.
Munsey, who top-scored with 32, attempted boost the run-rate by top-edging Dan Lawrence over the ropes only to pick out deep fine leg two balls later off Aron Nijjar in the next over.
Left-arm spinner Nijjar, on his fifth T20 appearance, caused problems with his two for 25 – as Sam Northeast was brilliantly caught by Simon Harmer at short midwicket.
Lewis McManus was caught in the deep, but Joe Weatherley took Hampshire to within 14 runs of victory with a gutsy 27 but was bowled by a Paul Walter slower ball.
Having forced a tie against Surrey at the weekend, Matt Quinn was forced to defend six off the final over – which he failed to do on this occasion, as Holland and James Fuller rotated the strike nicely, before the former handed Hampshire their maiden victory in the 2020 Blast with a straight drive for the needed single.
Earlier, Sam Northeast had won the toss and stuck Essex in – with both sides naming unchanged XIs.
Cameron Delport survived carving straight to a juggling Fuller at point, but generally found himself shackled as Hampshire bowled accurately.
Teenager Scott Currie was struck for 16 in his sole over on debut, against Sussex, but found control and his maiden professional wicket - Chopra drilling to mid-on.
Crane, who had taken three for 24 at Chelmsford last season, continued the visitors’ dominance through the middle overs.
The leg-spinner had Delport caught slog sweeping, Tom Westley stumped and Dan Lawrence chipping a reverse sweep up to short fine leg George Munsey.
But along with the regular wickets, Crane kept the run-rate down – only going for one boundary, a straight-six from Westley – as he returned three for 18.
The Eagles failed to hit a boundary between the ninth and 15th overs but thanks to the ageless Ryan ten Doeschate reached a competitive score.
The Dutchman enjoyed partnerships of 39 and 30 with Adam Wheater and Paul Walter, split by the wicket-keeper slapping Chris Wood to Northeast at extra cover.
Ten Doeschate, 40, showed little thrills with his unbeaten 37 from 29 ball, although did strike Wood back over his head for six.
Essex spin bowler Aron Nijjar said: “We are not happy with the loss but we aren’t going to dwell on it too much as we have three important games coming up so we will be ready to bounce back quickly.
“We weren’t too disheartened with our score as it wasn’t easy to score on – it was a bit stoppy and kept low – so we were happy that we could have defended that score, and were unhappy we didn’t.
“It seemed difficult to get in on. There weren’t many sixes for example. You needed to push the ones and twos.
“I didn’t bowl too badly, although I would have liked a few less runs and maybe another wicket or two to see the boys home.
“It is nice to contribute but hopefully we can get a few more wins.
“The record was something we were aware of but I don’t think any team in any sport can win every single game.
“We went 13 months without losing so that shows that we have a good mentality even when we lose. We do put the blame on ourselves but don’t dwell on it and get back up and make sure we get the wins.
“There was a bit of deja vu from Surrey at the end but they had two batsmen in so it was always going to be tough. Not every day can be your day.”