Gloucestershire 117 for 5 (Jones 40) beat Hampshire 116 (Miles 3-25) by five wickets
Geraint Jones may have announced his intention to retire at the end of the season but Gloucestershire were grateful for him remaining available until September as he kept the club's hopes of a NatWest T20 Blast quarter-final alive. Jones' 40 in 30 balls, on his 39th birthday, helped steer Gloucestershire to a five-wicket win over Hampshire in a low-scoring contest at Cheltenham.
Chasing only 117 to win, Gloucestershire slipped to 44 for 4 in the eighth over before Jones and Benny Howell, who made an unbeaten 31, steadied the chase with a stand of 61 in 8.4 overs. A couple of dropped catches later, the target was reached with eight balls to spare.
"I have batted in that sort of situation so many times and experience definitely helps," Jones said. "Benny Howell was really calm out there and the bit of drizzle made the ball come on a bit quicker so I could play through the line. It was our best bowling and fielding display in the competition this season and showed the potential of the team. The frustration is that we have not been consistent enough, but that is where we are as a group and there is every prospect of success over the next couple of years."
Hampshire were bowled out for just 116 after losing the toss in overcast conditions on a pitch assisting all types of bowling. James Vince top scored with 32, while Craig Miles returned 3 for 25 in an excellent bowling and fielding display. Hampshire batted from the start as if they didn't trust the Festival pitch. A six over square leg from Michael Carberry and some sweet drives from Vince were rare shots in anger during a Powerplay that yielded only 38 runs as Miles bowled three overs for 19.
Carberry was bowled by Miles in the third over, the ball after his six, and Adam Wheater was content to push singles to give the strike to Vince, the one batsman who appeared at home. The Hampshire captain had moved to 32 when caught at long-on off Howell with the score 57 in the ninth over. Wheater fell in the same over, a double wicket-maiden for Howell and at the halfway stage of their innings Hampshire were becalmed on 62 for 3. Owais Shah drove a catch to long-off to give Jack Taylor a wicket before Tom Smith claimed his 23rd victim of the competition as Sean Terry was bowled on the back foot.
Will Smith provided brief acceleration with a six and four off successive balls from offspinner Taylor in the 16th over, but wickets continued to tumble and Hampshire managed only 13 off the last four overs, with last man Jackson Bird being run out off the final ball.
Soon it was Gloucestershire struggling with the bat. The competition's leading run-maker Michael Klinger went lbw to Jackson Bird for a duck in the opening over and by the end of their Powerplay the hosts were 39 for 3. Ian Cockbain was run out when sent back attempting an unnecessary third run, while Chris Dent, on 23, clipped Chris Wood straight to Joe Gatting at midwicket. It was starting to look a close contest when Peter Handscomb was bowled behind his legs by Danny Briggs for 7.
But Jones soon set about steadying the ship with some confident strokes. The England Ashes winning wicketkeeper hit three fours and two sixes in his 30-ball innings before being bowled by Vince with only 12 runs needed. Howell offered excellent support in a fine individual all-round performance, following his 2 for 15 from four overs with some well-timed strokes.
Hampshire director of cricket Giles White said: "We probably didn't assess the pitch quickly enough. As it turned out 140 would have been a good score, but we tried for more and lost wickets. It was an advantage to bat second, but we couldn't do that and came up short. We now have to go to Hove and if we can win there I believe qualification will still be in our own hands going into the final group match."