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Fuller's six pack can't deflect Hampshire from first win

Colin Munro goes aerial Michael Bradley/AFP/Getty Images

Hampshire 184 (Munro 63, Fuller 6-28) beat Middlesex 163 for 9 (Munro 2-20) by 21 runs
Scorecard

Hampshire sealed their first win of their T20 Blast campaign by putting struggling Middlesex to the sword at the Ageas Bowl in a performance which hinted that suggestions of their decline as a force in the format are premature.

Between 2010 and 2015, Hampshire built the first real dynasty seen in T20 cricket, as their well-drilled, methodical side reached Finals Day every season, winning the title twice. But they crashed out of the 2016 tournament with a whimper, winning only four games in the season, and fans were concerned that last year's resurgence - which saw them edged out by eventual winners Notts in the semi-final - was nothing more than an outlier; with three losses from three in the Blast so far, another season of discontent looked on the cards.

Here, Colin Munro's all-round show helped to allay those concerns. Munro's blistering 40-ball 63 had put Hampshire on track for a score well over 200, before an unlikely six-wicket haul from James Fuller restricted them to 184 all out.

Any fears the collapse would harm them were swiftly averted: Munro added two wickets and a run out to his fiery innings as Middlesex struggled to find middle-overs momentum in their run chase, and Hampshire secured a 21-run victory. Admittedly, their performance was not entirely clinical: it featured dropped catches, wayward death bowling, and a concerning batting collapse. But with a win on the board and some much-needed confidence back in the side, Hampshire will look to gather momentum in this tournament in their bid to engender another era of domination.

"I thought we left 15-20 runs out there," Munro said. "It was a good surface, and we just lost a couple of key wickets in the middle there.

"Things haven't gone our way, but as long as you try to train the same way and prepare the same way, you'll get results down the track, and tonight it was good to get on the board at last. We've still got some left in the tank, but there's a lot of positives to take into tomorrow's game."

After he won the toss and chose to bat, the early signs were that this would be James Vince's night. He hit the first three balls of the innings - bowled by Steven Finn - for four, with a punch through cover point followed by two whips to the midwicket boundary.

Two more sublime strokes for four followed off Paul Stirling's first over, and Vince was motoring. But his reputation precedes him. As is so often the case, Vince got in, looked a million dollars, and got out, as he flicked Finn to deep square leg on 23. Vince has reached twenty 41 times since the start of the 2015 Blast, but has only turned twelve of those starts into fifties. It is not a statistic that will trouble him - he was on the list of the top three Blast run-scorers in two of the past three seasons - but one that will do little to convince England that he has grit as well as grace.

Hampshire's total was underpinned by Munro and Rilee Rossouw's 72-run third-wicket stand in 7.3 overs. They knocked the ball about patiently in the middle overs, while thumping the bad balls - of which there were plenty - to the fence as Hampshire reached 122 for 2 after 12 overs.

Perhaps out of desperation, Dawid Malan threw the ball to Fuller; and out of nowhere, Hampshire lost their heads. Rossouw was caught at deep cover, before Tom Alsop chopped on at the end of his first over, and Munro skied a catch to Max Holden in his second. His third saw Dawson and Berg miscue to long-on and nick off respectively, before he had Lewis McManus caught in the deep in his final over as Hampshire were bowled out for 184.

Fuller's eventual 6 for 28 was among the most improbable of six-wicket hauls. He said it was "a massive surprise to get a bowl", given his bowling went unused in last night's defeat to Somerset, and he was the eighth bowler that Malan turned to. Yet that still left him with ample time to return the best figures for Middlesex in a T20 as he became only the sixth man to bag six wickets in an innings in the Blast's history.

In truth, Fuller's haul masked a shoddy Middlesex effort with the ball. Admittedly, the schedule has not been kind to them: they went 11 days without a game before last night, and Eoin Morgan and Malan's absences due to England and Lions selection respectively have meant they are yet to have the same captain for consecutive fixtures. But it was telling that Malan and Stirling spent a minute or more discussing fields in the game's second over; bowlers can hardly expect to succeed when strategies are being created on the spot, and Middlesex's supporters may well start to question what Daniel Vettori has achieved in his role as T20 coach.

Predictably, spin proved key in the run chase. Holden's chancy start meant Middlesex were 45-1 after five overs, but in the final over of the powerplay, he ran himself out after Malan was caught reverse-sweeping. With the fielding restrictions lifted, Munro had Morgan caught in the deep with his skiddy medium pace as he and Dawson put the breaks on. No side has a slower scoring rate against spin in the Blast than Middlesex and it showed, with boundaries suddenly at a premium.

Just as he was set to attack, John Simpson skied a catch to Vince on the edge of the ring, while Dwayne Bravo started to play his shots. He launched Dawson for two sixes down the ground, but short of any real support, he had to keep swinging, and his miscued heave off Munro was well caught by the bowler running round to square leg. With Bravo gone, Hampshire's victory was in little doubt, and a late rally from Middlesex's tail could not hide their shortcomings.