I like to think that I offer praise in plentiful amounts but equally I have to admit I can be very niggly about things even in a win. However, given the situation we found ourselves in at 2:30 this afternoon, I have to say that today's match was one of the most enjoyable and pleasing in a long time. By our own design we found ourselves in effectively a round of 16 - lose and we were out (as it was in the Surrey game we certainly would have been out), win and a quarter-final spot was ours. The most obvious thing first up was that the boundaries had been moved in some way, shorter than I've ever seen them at The Rose Bowl, but still a veritable plain in comparison to some of the IPL pitches. Moans from some "experienced" members of the crowd and of course the Sky commentators when I caught up with the highlights later were to be expected, however the boundaries were larger than the minimum and both sides had to bat and field on it so I can't really see the problem. Yes they were short but not everything hit in the air went for six!
So Yardy won the toss and put Hampshire in on an apparently glued track. Corky gave quite a long team talk (after a quick ciggie at the dressing room door, very naughty) before Adams and suprisingly Razzaq walked to the middle. Prior gave us all a taste of what was to come by letting the first ball of the innings from Rayner through for 2 wides. Razzaq found the middle to stroke the ball to the cover boundary but Rayner responded by stroking Razzaq's outside edge and Prior actually took a catch. 7-1. Nash came on for more spin from the other end as Adams and Vince looked to find their feet. It didn't take Adams long as he punched a six down the ground early on in his innings. Vince played all round an Arafat straight one and suddenly Hampshire were 2 down for 20 odd. McKenzie came in at 4 wearing shades, as if he wasn't smooth enough already. His shot selection was pretty smooth too, as consecutive 4s got him on his way. Adams struck some more boundaries in brutal, yet calculated fashion until a circus act on the square leg boundary by Luke Wright had Jimmy returning to the dugout for a good 30. Carberry finally came in at 5 with a bit of rebuilding to do to be honest, as he and McKenzie began their partnership circumspectly. However both ramped it up, Carberry with one of his trademark flicks for six, whist McKenzie got a hold of Yardy's bowling to pepper the off side. Further quick scoring followed from Carberry until he was brilliantly run-out by Prior. The base was set, though, as Slug walked to the crease and it certainly didn't take him long to find his range! His stay was relatively short but very, very sweet as the boundaries flowed. When Ervine was run-out with the team score on 175 in the penultimate over, his own contribution consisted of 32 runs, 12 balls face, 2 fours and 3 sixes. None of the boundaries or maximums were lucky either - all 5 were crisp, nicely timed and above all destructive. DC came to the crease, with McKenzie having reached his 50 in that penultimate over. Yardy entrusted the last over with Wright, but McKenzie immediately suggested that that may have been a bad move on Sussex's part, carting the first 3 balls to the boundary, 2 fours and a six. No boundaries came off the last three balls but the damage was well and truely done, 195-5 and momentum moving into the second innings.
One thing I have been critical about (in my last blog at least), was the fact that we have been unable to pick up early wickets, instead letting the opposition build a base. This appeared to be the case today as Slug was given the first over and Wright responded by hitting two boundaries. More boundaries followed next over and Sussex were 21-0 after 2. Bates, helmetless, then stood up to Wood in an effort to put more pressure on Wright. Sure enough it worked as Wright moved to the leg side only to edge the ball into Bates' waiting hands. Reflexes seemed to take over as the bails were off before Bates realised he had taken his first 20/20 catch. Goodwin came to the crease to join Prior who looked relatively sedate, and nothing like his 400 odd tournament runs suggested. Razzaq was trusted with the ball, and an attempted slower ball fooled everyone except the batsman, who let it trickle past, and the umpire who quickly signalled wide. However another attempted slower ball pitching almost halfway down the pitch did for Prior as he pulled the ball awkwardly infront of square, only for McKenzie to leap like a stunted salmon and pouch the catch. Briggs came into the attack and tasted instant success, of sorts. Goodwin blocked a Briggs delivery straight to a diving McKenzie. Yardy was 9/10s of the way down thepitch before Goodwin sent him back. A flick of the ball from McKenzie to Briggs saw Briggs remove the bails but Yardy was already on his way to the dressing room, but not before having a heated exchange with Goodwin. As funny as it was it can't be good for Sussex having their two most senior players having an onfield argument.
With 3 wickets down now Hampshire had the wind in their sails, the bit between their teeth. Briggs' over was tidy, the next over tidy too, before Briggs bamboozled Goodwin, hopping in lazily then turning one enough to clip the top of off stump. This served to bring Dwayne Smith in to join Chris Nash, and it felt like the Sussex lineup would never end! Smith pushed and nudged for an over or two before launching an astonishing and possibly game turning counter-attack. With the rate required up arond 13 and a half an over, Smith came after Briggs like the tiger let loose on Sigfried and Roy. Smith raped and pillaged the over, adding 24 runs to his and Sussex's totals and suddenly the Sharks were momentarily in the game again. Cork answered boldly by bringing himself on and the move paid dividends. A low full toss was thumped by Smith down the ground, but Carberry was there at long off, 2 inches inside the boundary to hold the catch. Gatting was the new man in and he quickly hit a six too, all the time Nash was at the other end rotating the strike and finding the boundary on occasion. However he didn't last long as Vince took a well judged catch at long on, moving to his right. Sussex were listing now but they still held a glimmer of hope as long as Nash was there, and after all Arafat was no bunny. That all changed though with Cork's last over. Nash called Arafat through for a two that was not on and Arafat knew it. The trow from the deep was accurate from Carberry but it was to Cork at the bowler's end where Nash was in. However Cork had noticed Arafat's indecisive running and relaid the ball to Bates who ran Arafat out comfortably. A single by new man Rayner was follwed by another full toss by Cork, and again it was another wicket as Slug held a well judged catch to send Nash back and the game was done. Keegan kept Sussex alive by name only in managing to find the boundary a couple of times. He then however also found the eager hands of Adams on the leg side boundary, Adams tumbling and laughing at the fact that he pulled off a catch probably without seeing the ball due to the sun. DC was given the penultimate over and like true tailenders Rayner and Kirtley could not score off of it, the final ball demolishing Rayner's stumps and Sussex were all out for 150, giving Hampshire victory by 45 runs.
The roar of victory by the crowd was then topped by the roar following the news of Hampshire's progression into the Q-F. Do we really deserve to be there? My first instinct is no, however the fact that we are there must surely mean we deserve to be there, if that makes sense? Anyway a trip to Edgbaston awaits and I think we have a chance. As Corky mentioned in the post match interview we did pretty well there last time we played there, and if we can negate Trott and Bell then we stand a fantastic chance. The carrot of Finals Day at The Rose Bowl should be all the motivation Hampshire need. McKenzie was rightfully man-of-the-match, though I'm not sure if it was given for the 67* and catch, or for the fact that he wore sunglasses whilst batting. I would have awarded it for either to be honest. Bates received plenty of attention, and rightly so as it turned out he had driven down from Loughborough that morning before turning in an exceptional performance behind the stumps. Hampshire post-Pothas is looking oh so much better.
It will be okay
3 months ago