Hampshire in control throughout
Dimitri Mascarenhas - delivered the decisive early blows
Photo © CricInfo
beat Middlesex convincingly
Having begun the season with high hopes after their overseas signing, the highest paid player on the county circuit, Shane Warne, and acquiring the services of Allan Mullally from Leicestershire, Hampshire would now have faced the possibility of ending the season with no significant achievement if they had made their exit from this quarter-final of the NatWest Trophy.
Now having despatched Middlesex so convincingly, by seven wickets, they stand just one step away from a place in a showpiece final.
The visitors looked in control of this match all the way through except, perhaps, for a brief moment when their second and third wickets fell in a space of eleven runs: even then they were nearly two-thirds of the way towards their victory target of 128.
Top-scorer of their innings, John Stephenson, 35, had given them a solid enough foundation in a low scoring game, putting on fifty for the first wicket with Giles White who was dismissed for 18, followed by Warne, promoted up the order and responding with a quick twenty from 19 balls.
After Keith Dutch, with his off-spin had taken his second wicket, that of Stephenson, Jason Laney and Will Kendall saw their side home, putting on forty in nine overs during their unbroken fourth wicket stand in an innings of only 34.5 overs.
Hampshire will, no doubt, be more than a little concerned about the absence of Warne from the semi-final as the Australian leg-spinner returns home in a fortnight owing to commitments with his national team.
Hampshire look to NatWest Trophy semi-final for consolation for the season
Struggling at the bottom of Division One in the county championship and occupying only a second division position in the National League, Hampshire must look to their semi-final as a vitally important fixture to have the possibility of showing a trophy for their season's work.
Having been asked to bat first, Middlesex could have had very little excuse for an utterly inept batting, even allowing for the slowness of the pitch and the heavy overcast conditions.
They would have been grateful to the lower order of their line-up which provided valuable contribution to the 127-run total ( in 44 overs ) as no less than 54 of those runs were accounted for by the last two wickets.
Hosts struggle against accurate bowling
With just three batsmen managing double figures, one of whom was a number ten, it gave a fair indication of Middlesex's struggle against accurate bowling.
Hampshire's bowlers struck early and having got the stranglehold on the innings, refused to loosen the grip. Dimitri Mascarenhas led the attack claiming his first two wickets in successive overs.
He hit Michael Roseberry's leg stump in his third over and in the next one, with a slight change of pace, a slower ball, he had David Alleyne mis-time his lofted drive to be caught at mid-off. It was two down for seventeen and the plight continued.
And worse was to come
Mark Ramprakash was trapped leg-before-wicket with the total on 41 and a run later Allan Mullally, coming in as second change, held a return catch to dismiss Andrew Strauss for 24. But worse was to come for Middlesex with their fifth and sixth wickets falling on 57. Two batsmen who were much among the runs in the two previous rounds, both failed.
Justin Langer, who had hit a century in the third round became man-of-match Mascarenhas' fourth victim and Paul Weekes, unbeaten with 71 in the last round, fell for six.
Shane Warne found considerable turn on this pitch and had two for five before Richard Johnson took the long handle to him and distorted his figures a little with four boundaries. There seemed nothing left of the Middlesex innings on 73 for eight, but then came that late flourish.