Southee sinks Hampshire
Tim Southee proved the hero as Essex condemned Hampshire to a 26-run defeat - their first Friends Life t20 loss of the season at Chelmsford.
The New Zealander hit an explosive 74 from just 34 deliveries to lead Essex to 162 for seven, then followed it up with three wickets and two catches as the visitors were bowled out for 136 in the 19th over.
Promoted to open the innings, Southee responded by smashing five sixes and six fours as all the Hampshire bowlers came in for punishment. Sharing the limelight with the New Zealander was all-rounder Tim Phillips.
He helped himself to 33 from only 19 balls after coming in late in the order, an effort that contained four fours and two sixes.
The slow left-armer followed it up by capturing 4-29, three wickets arriving in his final over to put an end to Hampshire's hopes.
Apart from Southee and Phillips, James Foster was the only other Essex batsman to reach double figures, finishing with an unbeaten 29 from 33 deliveries with a solitary four.
Dimitri Mascarenhas and Dominic Cork were Hampshire's most successful bowlers with two wickets each, but it was spinners Shahid Afridi, making his long-awaited debut following his dispute with the Pakistan Cricket Board, and Imran Tahir who proved the most economical.
James Vince did his best to keep Hampshire in the hunt by making 52 from 44 bowls. He was among Phillips's victims.
But it was not enough to deny Essex a victory which keeps alive their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals. Southee claimed 3-38 while paceman Chris Wright played his part with 2-22.