David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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Hampshire 145 for 1 (McDermott 83, Vince 54*) beat Middlesex 142 for 7 (Holden 35, Davies 34, Dawson 3-14) by nine wickets
There have been swingers in Radlett - famously so, as they were once the subject of a Channel 4 documentary - but sadly, as far as Middlesex were concerned, they were not of the cricketing variety. When it came to games between bat and ball there was hardly a nod and a wink to be had as Middlesex's innings rarely got off the straight and narrow.
For Hampshire, though, it was a case of bring on the party. Ben McDermott, stocky and belligerent - think Bob Hoskins with athletic talent - brought along his own playlist of sixes, nine of them included in a destructive innings of 83 in 30 balls.
Middlesex did not bowl well at McDermott. Too often, they were short and straight, and seven of his nine sixes were walloped into the square-leg arc. They know as well as anyone how to defend Radlett's small boundaries and the pitch was slow and low, but with only 142 for 7 in the bank and McDermott flexing his muscles and thinking "club ground", there was little to be done against such a combative assault.
The upshot was a nine-wicket victory for Hampshire, who won with eight overs to spare. Vince, England's lost stylist, collected an unbeaten half-century to round things off. Hampshire escaped the foot of South Group as a result and they looked a likelier side than Middlesex to be in the shake-up when the group stakes reach their climax this time next month.
It's well known how small the ground is here and normally how good a wicket it is, but in the middle we thought it was actually a par score on that wicket," McDermott said. "We got off to a good powerplay and I just thought 'I'm going to keep going here' and try and kill the game, which I was lucky enough to do. I sort of mishit a couple of those for six and got a bit lucky at times with the wind swirling around and making the boundary even shorter. We've got to get on a little bit of a roll now and keep winning games."
This is a young Middlesex side, the sort of side that, one might postulate, would benefit hugely from the astute presence of Eoin Morgan in the middle order, not to say the dressing room, but Morgan was still protecting his minor groin injury ahead of his captaincy of England's ODI side for a three-match series against the Netherlands from June 17, an undertaking which (although enlightened in its way) further drains the Blast of resources and appeal, as England will field a Test and one-day side at the same time. There is no slight to the Blast that the ECB will not consider, and no slight to the Blast that the counties will not regard with meek acquiescence.
Radlett is one of the Blast's quainter settings. It is an affluent Hertfordshire town, just inside the M25, and the sort of place where sixes are likely to plop into well-tended privet hedges to ripples of applause and where spectators murmur "buzzers", somewhat self-consciously, whenever there is an overthrow. If they played music between balls, it would probably be Beethoven's Für Elise with the only debate about which version to choose.
If you must take a beating then at least in such an atmosphere it is regarded with an air of forgiveness. Youthful promise, of which Middlesex have plenty, is also an asset on the bad nights and, on this occasion, it was Jack Davies who displayed flashes of invention to make 34 from 27 balls.
Middlesex's runs have come in the top three all season and they had perished by the 10th over, 70 on the board. All fell to variants of the mid-off loft: Stephen Eskinazi fatally advancing down the pitch; Joe Cracknell muscling a ball of full length; and Max Holden, who had his stylish moments, opening the front leg but failing to find lift-off.
That was soon 94 for 6 as Middlesex failed to find a boundary (not all that far away) for 34 deliveries. Batting promotions were made as much because if the need to juggle limited resources as conviction. Luke Hollman, pushed up to No. 4, mistimed a legside hit, and Chris Green, in at No. 7, lost his middle stump to one that hurried through low.
Both were victims of the left-arm spinner, Liam Dawson, who found occasional turn and who added John Simpson at deep square leg to return an excellent spell of 3 for 14. Better fortunes than last year when he conceded 54 runs on the same ground or indeed in 2020, when he ruptured an Achilles tendon.
From the moment that Thilan Walallawita spiled 18 from his first over (the second of the reply), Hampshire's authority was clear. They took their cue from that. By the time Middlesex introduced Green, Hampshire were 103 after eight overs - perhaps the McDermott vs Green match-up was a contest they did not fancy, as there could be little other reason. But no match-up curbed McDermott and Martin Andersson had taken more punishment than anybody when Eskinazi brought it to an end by clinging on to a skier at deep mid-off.
Hampshire now have back-to-back wins and the South Group could be about to concertina in characteristic fashion, leaving any number of counties in the shake-up as July arrives. As for Middlesex, their bright start appears to have been a false dawn and the overlooking of Nathan Sowter looks increasingly strange. If they have taken a view, a player with such a serviceable record looks bound to move on.