Shah, Ervine late blitz enough for Hants
Hampshire 172 for 3 (Shah 58, Carberry 57) beat Middlesex 153 for 6 (Arafat 2-21) by 19 runs
A superb partnership between Owais Shah and Sean Ervine of 85 from just 6.2 overs propelled Hampshire to a 19 run victory over Middlesex and to second in the South Group. Shah, who scored 58 not out and Ervine who scored 42 not out, elevated Hampshire from the fragile position of 87 for 3 after 13.4 overs to 170 for 3, a total which proved too many for Middlesex who will be disappointed that they didn't mount a more serious challenge.
After winning the toss and electing to bat Hampshire were perilously poised after sixteen overs having scored only 106 on a typically high-scoring ground. Indeed, the concern in Hampshire coach Dale Benkenstein's voice as he spoke to Sky Sports in the sixteenth over was palpable. "We need to be looking at ten an over from here on in," he said. He got that, and more.
Despite the eighteenth over only going for five, Shah and Ervine blitzed 61 off the other 18 balls of the final four overs, including six sixes and three fours to haul Hampshire from weakness to strength in less than fifteen minutes.
Shah and Ervine are two very different batsman. Shah is an almost prototypical example of classical batting evolved, while Ervine, although versatile, is less subtle; more force than flair and more beast than beauty. But regardless of their differences the havoc they wreaked was undistinguishable. The sixteenth over, bowled by James Franklin was plundered for 16 before 25 came off the penultimate over bowled by Steven Finn who looked down on pace and, from England's perspective, worryingly lacklustre. Shah reached his fifty with a scampered two in the final over before smiting the last delivery of the innings for six to elevate Hampshire to 170 for 3.
Hampshire's problem earlier on was that of the top three batsmen only Michael Carberry could get in. James Vince struggled desperately, scratching around for 24 painful minutes and 16 balls for the reward of just 9 runs before he fell in the seventh over dragging on to Franklin. Jimmy Adams too faced six balls before being caught for 3. Adams has scored just nine runs in his last three innings.
A couple of trademark pull shots from Carberry and some proactive running between him and Shah at least instilled some momentum into Hampshire's innings, but even when Carberry moved to and beyond fifty there was still a sense that Hampshire were behind were they needed be and when Carberry fell for a well-made and platform laying 57 there was still plenty of work to be done. Even after Shah and Ervine's partnership however, Shah felt that Hampshire were perhaps ten runs light of a winning score.
Shah's assessment was of the conditions however, and not necessarily the match and its protagonists. Although Middlesex began their innings on the back of two consecutive scores of 200-plus, the second of which was the highest ever score at Lord's, Hampshire's bowling attack is well-practiced at defending scores of around 170, especially at home, and they proved effective in doing so once again.
Although four fours were taken from Jackson Bird's first over once Middlesex lost Nick Compton and Dawid Malan in the space of nine balls in the Powerplay they were quickly playing catch-up.
However, although Middlesex were behind the rate from very early on, while international pairing Eoin Morgan and Joe Burns were at the crease there was a chance that they would launch an assault, but it never materialised. Hampshire bowled well, conceding no boundaries between the fifth and ninth over, and Vince shuffled his attack with practiced ease. The trademark Hampshire Squeeze was on.
As the innings turned, Middlesex's patience did too. Burns was caught in the deep by Carberry off the bowling of Yasir Arafat before Morgan fell less than two overs later to leave Middlesex 86-4 and the required run rate almost at 13. Franklin and John Simson briefly threatened to spring a surprise but Hampshire's canny and experienced bowling attack always came back with answers, to restrict Middlesex to just 153 for 6. Will Smith, Danny Briggs and Yasir Arafat all conceded less than 6.30 runs per over and stood out from a decent bowling performance. Six Middlesex batsmen reached double figures, three scoring more than 27, but none managed more than 31 and ultimately they lacked the innings-shaping performance of which Hampshire had three.