Briggs bowls Hampshire to Finals Day
Hampshire 154 for 6 (McKenzie 56, Claydon 2-15) beat Durham 99 (Briggs 5-19, Afridi 2-13) by 55 runs
Hampshire are a step closer to getting the chance to defend their Twenty20 crown after a five-wicket haul by left-arm spinner Danny Briggs set up a crushing 55-run win over Durham at the Rose Bowl.
Neil McKenzie's accomplished fifty had carried Hampshire to a competitive 154 for 6, after which Hampshire's stable of spinners took full advantage of the helpful conditions to scupper Durham's chase. The slow men bowled 11.3 overs for just 50 runs in total, with Briggs ripping the heart out of the middle order to finish with 5 for 19 and the Man of the Match award.
While Hampshire's preparation of a pitch to suit their strengths in the bowling department is sure to spark some debate, there was some absorbing cricket on display as ball dominated bat. Hampshire were grateful for a 66-run fourth wicket stand between McKenzie and Sean Ervine, as the eventual first-innings total gave the home side's spinners vital breathing space and heaped on the scoreboard pressure to induce false strokes from Durham's batsmen on a turning track.
Briggs had played a vital role in Hampshire's triumph in this competition last season with a club record of 31 wickets, including a Man of the Match performance in the semi final, and is Hampshire's leading wicket-taker this time round too, with 22 scalps at 14.95 so far. Hampshire captain Dominic Cork also had Imran Tahir and Shahid Afridi's appreciable talents to turn to, but it was seam rather than spin that he opted to open Hampshire's defence with.
Both Dimitri Mascarenhas and Cork, who turned 40 today and has also been dealing with his father's illness in recent weeks, managed to keep things reasonably tight, but the match really began to turn when Briggs was brought on in the fifth over, with the field restrictions in place, and immediately struck to remove Mustard.
Overseas signing David Miller was the next to go, deceived by dip through the air and zip off the surface to be bowled for 10, and in the very same over Briggs rushed one straight on past Ben Stokes' thrusting sweep to have him stumped for 28 by wicketkeeper Michael Bates, who had a flawless day behind the stumps. With Durham shorn of the services of the injured Paul Collingwood, Stokes was the only batsman to find any fluency in the conditions, and once he was gone the strangulation began in earnest.
Ian Blackwell was completely deceived by a Tahir googly, while Briggs had Dale Benkenstein and Liam Plunkett caught in the deep for his fourth and fifth wickets as Durham slipped to 95 for 8. Once they'd completed their overs, Afridi was brought on and swiftly applied the coup de grace with the wickets of Mitchell Claydon and Scott Borthwick with consecutive deliveries.
Durham's chase ultimately ended with a whimper, but they had been far more competitive in the field, and made a superb start when the potentially-destructive Afridi was run out without facing a ball in the first over. James Vince struggled to get going, and Durham continued to show superb energy in the field as Jimmy Adams was run out to reduce the hosts to 37 for 3.
Ervine and McKenzie started slowly but the innings soon began to regain momentum, and they had reached a far more healthy 78 for 3 at the halfway mark. Durham's spinners - Borthwick, Blackwell and Breese - found plenty of fizz off the surface and Blackwell caused particular problems for McKenzie, who played and missed on several occasions.
An intense contest unfolded, McKenzie hitting back with consecutive sixes with a slog sweep and a twinkle-toed loft over cover off Blackwell despite the conditions. A firm platform had been laid but the partnership was then broken in farcical fashion, both batsmen stranded mid-pitch after some very confused calling and Ervine run out for a 30-ball 35.
McKenzie remained, however, and marshalled his team past 150, bringing up a 40-ball half-century along the way. That was always going to be a very stiff target for Durham to chase, but once Briggs got going they never had a chance.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo