Words by Alex Smith, ECB Reporters Network
James Vince fired a warning to Hampshire Hawks’ Vitality Blast rivals with an outstanding unbeaten 88 off 55 balls as the holders got their 2023 campaign off and running by thrashing Middlesex.
Vince was the 2022 competition’s leading run scorer, passed 5,000 T20 during his explosive innings, and is now 61 runs away from being the Blast’s all-time leading run-getter.
He put on 91 with Australian Ben McDermott as Hampshire put their opening day embarrassment to Somerset behind them to win by eight wickets.
Pieter Malan was excellent for his 80 but Middlesex slid away to only set the Hawks 172 – which was completed with 13 balls to spare.
Friday at been declared Champions Day at the Ageas Bowl as Hampshire and Southern Vipers flaunted their Blast and Charlotte Edwards Cup trophies. Vipers began the day by dominating Western Storm.
Hampshire had been routed for their lowest Blast at Taunton on Wednesday. But instead of licking their wounds, they took it out on Middlesex.
McDermott set the tone for the chase with an early scoop before almost wiping out the umpire with a straight drive in a three-boundary destruction of Tom Helm.
Vince was no shrinking violet at the other end and forced McDermott to duck out the way of his own swat down the ground as their 50 stand came up before the end of the powerplay.
McDermott picked out wide long off of 39 but Tom Prest continued the onslaught alongside his captain.
Vince was at another level though, his half-century came and went in 28 deliveries, and he then skipped down the pitch to deposit his first six to go alongside his 10 fours.
Prest wristily flicked his first soon after in a 17-ball 30 before ending too soon when he was bowled by Luke Hollman.
Vince was caught at deep fine leg, but got a reprieve as Middlesex’s poor evening got worse as they had too many fielders outside the ring. The victory came soon after.
Middlesex were stuck in and looked on course for 200 thanks to Stevie Eskinazi’s early swinging for 31, Malan’s speedy anchoring 80 and Ryan Higgins’ 27.
But no one else reached double figures and the last six wickets fell for 10 runs in 16 balls and they failed to bat out their overs.
Eskinazi flailed a massive six over midwicket in the first over in a productive powerplay – where Joe Cracknell was the only wicket to fall with 53 runs on the board.
Mason Crane went for 13 off his first five balls before a googly went through Eskinazi to end a 43 run stand with Malan, before Max Holden holed out the next ball Crane bowled.
Higgins reverse swept the hat trick ball away and slog swept two sixes during his innings defining 68 stand with Malan before he was caught and bowled by Chris Wood off his toe.
Malan’s innings showcased powerful striking down the ground and pin-point shots through gaps in the field as his 13th T20 fifty came off 30 balls.
Hampshire’s death bowling was impeccable though, as James Fuller – whose first two overs had gone for 30 – picked up Malan and John Simpson in his third over.
Nathan Ellis had Hollman caught behind off a skier, Nathan Fernandes and Tom Helm were run out and Martin Andersson struck out to deep extra cover to conclude a sorry end to a promising innings.