Dave Clark at the Ageas Bowl
Sean Ervine inspired Hampshire Royals to an improbable run-chase as they beat Surrey by three wickets to remain on course for a Yorkshire Bank 40 last-four spot and gain some important momentum ahead of Saturday’s Friends Life t20 semi-final.
The visitors looked on course for a victory that would have kept their hopes of a place in the next phase alive after making 219 for nine and then reducing Hampshire to 128 for six at the Ageas Bowl.
However, Hampshire have not built a reputation as the best chasers in the country without good reason and Ervine found willing partners in Liam Dawson, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Chris Wood to conquer a run-rate that at one stage was approaching nine per over, the Zimbabwean hitting the winning runs to finish unbeaten on 68 from 63 balls.
The win sends the Royals three points clear at the top of Group B and means they are in pole position to progress.
Hampshire travel to Edgbaston to defend their t20 title on Saturday, and must now feel they hold the whip hand over semi-final opponents Surrey after making it three wins from four in their limited-overs encounters this season.
Surrey made a flying start with Steven Davies and Jason Roy plundering 20 from the first two overs but, when the former was caught behind off the second ball of Sohail Tanvir’s next over, it sparked a collapse.
Roy was caught by Wood at backward point off Mascarenhas, Zander de Bruyn was run out by Jimmy Adams chasing a single that should never have been attempted and Vikram Solanki scratched around for 20 balls to compile five before Adam Wheater put him out of his misery with a fine catch standing up to Mascarenhas with the score on 39.
The visitors set about rebuilding after Mascarenhas and Tanvir’s skilful opening spell, but were dealt a further setback on 79 when Gary Wilson skied a pull off Ervine to go for 24.
Rory Burns and Zafar Ansari kept Surrey’s hopes alive, striking 49 and 62 respectively to secure a competitive total.
The Hampshire reply got off to the worst possible start with both openers falling within eight balls; in-form Michael Carberry feathered a thin edge down the leg side off Chris Tremlett and James Vince fell in the next over to a spectacular one-handed return catch by the tumbling Jon Lewis.
Jimmy Adams took consecutive boundaries off de Bruyn at the start of the 14th over, the latter via a glorious cover drive, but fell to 18-year-old seamer Tom Curran’s second ball two overs later for 30, having added 55 for the third wicket with McKenzie.
South African veteran McKenzie had his off-stump knocked back at the end of Curran’s next set of six, yet Dawson and the returning Ervine kept the game alive with a stand of 64 in 10 overs.
The pendulum swung again as Dawson was bowled by de Bruyn and Adam Wheater run out by Ansari.
Young Ansari was to undermine those efforts, though, by dropping Ervine on 46 – a miss that proved costly as Hampshire edged home.