McKenzie leads Royals to last eight
Hampshire Royals secured their place in the quarter-finals of the Friends Provident t20 thanks to a Neil McKenzie-inspired win over holders Sussex Sharks at the Rose Bowl.
Hampshire, who went into the tie perilously perched in fourth place - the final qualifying place in the South Group of the competition - needed a win to be sure of progressing.
And thanks to a powerful unbeaten knock of 67 off just 49 balls from former South African international McKenzie, Hampshire were able to amass a competitive 195 for five from their 20 overs.
A disciplined team bowling performance then saw them restrict an out-of-sorts Sussex, who qualify in third, to 150 all out in reply.
The win means Hampshire qualify for the potentially lucrative latter stages of the cup thanks to a superior run-rate to Surrey.
It could have been very different for Hampshire, after they made spluttering start after batting first.
Opener Abdul Razzaq departed for just four and youngster Jamie Vince for five to leave the Royals in trouble at 24 for two.
Vince’s departure brought McKenzie to the crease and, in partnership with Razzaq’s opening partner Jimmy Adams, he played a succession of sweetly-timed shots to drag Hampshire towards a competitive score.
After Adams departed for 30, McKenzie slipped effortlessly into an anchor role to the Royal’s innings, allowing first Michael Carberry, with 36, and then Sean Ervine to flay a tiring Sussex attack to all corners as the innings came to a close.
Sussex’s reply started strongly enough, with experienced England pair Luke Wright and Matt Prior looking in decent touch at the top of the innings.
But after young left-armer Chris Wood removed the dangerous Wright, Sussex’s charge disintegrated rapidly.
Prior was next to go, falling to a neat McKenzie catch off the bowling of Razzaq before another of Sussex’s England contingent, Michael Yardy, was run out two balls later.
Even a brief counter-attack from Chris Nash and Dwayne Smith did not raise hopes of a Sussex victory.
Instead some tight bowling from Dominic Cork and the impressive Wood squeezed the life out of the game, allowing Australian all-rounder Dan Christian to wrap up the innings by bowling Ollie Rayner with Sussex still 45 runs short.