Smith's spin an unlikely success
Hampshire 177 for 5 (Vince 52) beat Sussex 159 for 5 (Joyce 56) by 18 runs
After their blip against Glamorgan last week Hampshire were back to their formidable best at Hove. Finalists for the last four years and winners in 2010 and 2012 they again look the side to beat after a comfortable 18 run victory over Sussex.
Despite the absence of Chris Jordan, Matt Prior and Chris Nash Sussex made a decent fist of chasing 178. At halfway they were slight favourites with Ed Joyce and Rory Hamilton-Brown dovetailing effectively.
Even in a format that you might necessarily think would suit a stylist like Joyce, the Sussex captain remains a class act. The on-drive down the slope for four off Kyle Abbott was a thing of beauty and all the time he was there to anchor their response, Sussex had a chance of overhauling an asking rate in excess of nine an over.
But Hamilton-Brown, having got the measure of a slow pitch with 34 off 22 balls, was bowled making room and then Ben Brown had a horrible mow across the line having just punched two sumptuous boundaries through midwicket. The successful bowler on both occasions was Will Smith who was seldom utilised by his former club Durham in this format, certainly with the ball. But his skiddy off-breaks proved ideally suited to the surface and he finished with 2 for 21.
Joyce went to his half-century and tried to force the pace at the end but Abbott showed his international experience with a potent blend of accurate yorkers and slower balls as the boundaries dried up and Hampshire closed the game out with the certainty of a side who knew they had Sussex where they want them.
With Abbott's occasionally searing pace, the accuracy of left-arm spinner Danny Briggs and an athletic fielding unit Hampshire have all the bases covered. They look an evolving side too with 17-year-old Brad Taylor taking a decent catch on debut while that old stager Owais Shah anchored the second half of their innings with the assurity of someone with 199 games in this format behind him.
They also have the necessary firepower to take advantage of the Powerplay. James Vince and skipper Jimmy Adams formed a new opening partnership and although Adams fell in the fourth over Vince hit the ball with a mixture of impeccable timing and brutal power. His 52 from 31 balls contained 44 in boundaries, including two sixes which sailed over mid-wicket and out of the ground.
Hampshire scored 65 at the end of the Powerplay and although the Sussex attack did well to drag things back they suffered at the end when Sean Ervine cut loose with 38 off 23 balls. Credit then, amidst the big hitting, to leg spinner Will Beer who was prepared to give the ball some air while Yasir Arafat showed all his nous with two wickets in his final over.
A target of 178 would have tested Sussex even if they had been able to call on their big hitters. Luke Wright threatened to provide the start they needed until he was superbly caught over his shoulder by the diving Adams. At halfway the scores were level but Sussex could have no complaints. They played better than in both of last weekend's two victories but were beaten by the better side, a fate one suspects awaiting a few more of Hampshire's opponents over the next few weeks.