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Stirling shines as Panthers prevail

Paul Stirling's belligerent 64 at the top of the Middlesex Panthers innings set the tone for a commanding 50-run victory over Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.

Middlesex's win, achieved with 20 balls to spare, was only their second of the NatWest T20 Blast campaign but they belied their struggles tonight on the south coast.

The visitors mustered 173 for six after being put into bat, and Hampshire slumped from 35 for no wicket to 123 all out in the 17th over, losing all their wickets for 88 runs in dramatic fashion spread over little more than 12 overs.

Stirling struck seven fours and two sixes off Matt Coles and Danny Briggs from 41 balls, featuring in crucial stands of 52 with Dawid Malan for the first wicket in six overs and then 53 for the third with teenager Ryan Higgins, making light of the early loss of captain Eoin Morgan in between.

Irishman Stirling fell lbw to Coles at the start of the 13th over, but Higgins confirmed his growing promise by making 31 in an innings which included another six off the luckless Briggs.

When Higgins was bowled by Will Smith with the score 125, Middlesex stuttered for the first time, failing to score a boundary between the 13th and the 17th over, but Dan Christian struck some important blows towards the end and John Simpson took two fours off Chris Wood's final over of the innings.

Middlesex's total looked inadequate as James Vince and Michael Carberry set off in pursuit, Vince striking five imperious fours in his 24 before driving Ollie Rayner to Morgan at cover.

From a prosperous position, Hampshire suddenly imploded at the demise of their skipper.

Carberry went to a catch by Harry Podmore to make it 40 for two to start the procession. Jimmy Adams departed after hitting Rayner for six and it was 93 for five by the time Sean Ervine followed Smith back inside.

Hampshire bat a long way down in limited-overs matches and Coles gave them hope of a miracle recovery by striking Neil Dexter for two sixes in three deliveries, but the revival was only temporary.

Christian came on for the start of the 15th over and removed Coles on the midwicket boundary and Wood to a catch at the wicket.

At 114 for seven the game was up. Glenn Maxwell exited to a catch at long-off for 10 and fellow Australian Nathan Rimmington, making his debut, sent back a return catch to leave Dexter on a hat-trick, before Podmore got in on the act by removing last man Michael Bates.

Middlesex coach Richard Scott was delighted with his team's display.

"We really upped the ante tonight," he said. "We were excellent in the field all evening and that made a huge difference.

"We felt 173 was a competitive total, but 180 was the sort of figure we aimed to reach.

"Ryan Higgins may only be 19, but he has a mature head for a young player and he batted beautifully when it mattered. Ryan and Paul Stirling set up the victory, without a doubt."

Hampshire batsman Adams said: "We have been below our best for a few games now. Our bowling has been decent enough, but we have not been posting scores.

"None of the top order made a fifty and that is what we needed badly. We felt 173 was straightforward, but none of us fired for long enough to threaten it."

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