Hampshire 456 (Wheater 122, Carberry 85, Vince 82, Smith 5-58) beat Essex 207 (Coles 6-71) and 218 (Napier 53, Coles 4-83, Tomlinson 4-63) by an innings and 31 runs
Matt Coles finished with match figures of 10 for 154 as Hampshire crushed Essex by an innings and 31 runs soon after lunch on the third day at the Ageas Bowl. Pace bowler Coles, on loan from Kent and now a free agent, took 4 for 83 in the Essex second innings to add to his 6 for 71 in the first as Essex, without several key players, lost all their batsmen in fewer than 43 overs.
The batting strip, so bland all summer, sparked to life in the overcast conditions and left-arm pace bowler James Tomlinson was as destructive as Coles, taking 4 for 63, as Essex revealed little determination to make Hampshire bat a second time.
Following-on 249 behind, Essex were all out for 218 and it would have been less but for a typical big-hitting cameo from Graham Napier of 53 in a 60-ball innings which included two sixes off Coles before the inevitable conclusion.
Essex went into the match without David Masters, Ravi Bopara and Reece Topley, who were all rested, Owais Shah who had retired and Ryan ten Doeschate, away playing in the Champions League. In addition, their captain James Foster allowed Ben Foakes to replace him behind the stumps. All this when Essex needed to gain maximum points to snatch the runners-up spot ahead of Northamptonshire.
Resuming the third day at 44 for no loss, Essex still needed another 205 to avoid being beaten by an innings but wickets tumbled at regular intervals in the morning session so that a big Hampshire win - only their second at home - came within an hour of the resumption after lunch.
Coles had Jake Middleburgh leg-before eleven balls into the day's play and Gautam Gambhir edged Tomlinson to Liam Dawson at first slip in the next over to make Essex 49 for 2. Tom Westley became the first of five catches for wicketkeeper Michael Bates at 69 and Greg Smith went the same way, a second victim for Tomlinson, at 73 as Essex quickly subsided.
At 117 for 6, Essex were already doomed but Ben Foakes and Napier at last applied some resistance in a stand of 39 for seventh. It was too little and far too late to alter the course of a one-sided match.
Coles and Tomlinson returned later to wipe out the Essex tail, Tomlinson removing Napier and Sajid Mahmood while Coles, who said he is talking to several counties about his destination next season, finished off by dismissing Foakes for 27 and last man Monty Panesar in the 58th over.
Coles' five-match spell with Hampshire earned him a total of 21 wickets, including his best match figures here, helping his temporary club to 24 points from the win. Essex collected eight from a match they had to win but never looked like doing so once Foster had won the toss and watched as Hampshire amassed a first-innings total of 456.