David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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Hampshire 145 for 0 (Vince 71*, McDermott 69*) beat Sussex 144 (Hudson-Prentice 31*, Dawson 2-14) by ten wickets
Ravi Bopara's failure to reach the Ageas Bowl in time to lead Sussex in their Vitality Blast tie against Hampshire was followed by a chaotic, and at times utterly doltish, batting display that ultimately cost them a 10-wicket defeat as their inoperative captain watched a little sheepishly from the bench.
Sussex's 144 had been made on a dry, grippy hybrid surface which encouraged imaginings that they were not quite out of the match but Hampshire, the defending champions, strutted to victory with 31 balls to spare - their first-ever 10-wicket victory in this competition. Hampshire go third, but Sussex are second bottom and have lost their last two matches heavily at the start of a period of six games in eight days.
Hampshire's experience is coming to the fore again. Ben McDermott was in robust mood as he made his first half-century in 14 innings and James Vince, who this season has already become the highest career run-scorer in the Blast, was once again in imperious form. is His unbeaten 71 took 31 balls, the highlights a couple of immense slog-sweeps, and he now level with Derbyshire's Wayne Madsen in the Blast run-scoring table with 351 runs at an average of 175.50. "I didn't think I played all that well," he said, further berating himself for almost running out McDermott with a handful of runs needed.
McDermott, who dominated the strike early on, imposed himself with a towering six down the ground off George Garton and then ramped the next ball over the ropes. The pair's first fifty stand of the season came off the last ball of the powerplay, but they ended the match with Hampshire's highest first-wicket stand in T20.
In a record-breaking week, Vince now has 20,000 runs for Hampshire across all formats. Samit Patel and Madsen are the only other current players to have as many runs in county cricket. Typically, his beauty of stroke was achieved in remarkably undemonstrative fashion, as if his sheer elegance animates those who watch him more than it delights himself.
Bopara was caught in a traffic jam on the M27, caused by a serious accident around 4pm which caused the eastbound carriageway to be closed throughout the evening. As Sussex's captain, he might have been expected to get there earlier than most, but he was the only player or official not to make it in time for the game, although there were many late arrivals in the crowd. He passed on the captaincy to Tom Alsop as he sat motionless in traffic.
Paul Farbrace, Sussex's head coach, restricted his comments to Sussex's on-field shortcomings. "There is a lot of inexperience and it is showing," he said. "It is showing in our shot selection and reading of the game. We had glimpses of good cricket and then we had some unbelievably dozy cricket.
"We had an education tonight from the best T20 team in county cricket. They taught us a lesson in so many ways. Their professionalism, the way they set their fields, the way they threw the ball in, ran between the wickets, struck boundaries and attacked our bowlers. The ones who are sharp enough in our team will learn from what they saw tonight."
Few county careers have been observed so fondly as Bopara's over the past two decades. His laidback nature has been part of his popularity, even as it has occasionally driven his coaches to distraction. Somehow, he managed to play 171 times for England in all formats without ever quite feeling a permanent member of the side, which was quite an achievement.
Much has been made of his disorganised and forgetful nature. A memorable article about him in 2011, after he promised to be more reliable, listed four aims and ambitions to cement that England place, of which No. 3 was "remember passport" and No. 4 was "buy a louder alarm clock".
But as England celebrate a new, attacking era, he deserves more recognition for being a progressive, too, because no England player was more outspoken in the dressing room about how the game was changing. It was Bopara who dared to speak out with feeling after England's timorous 2015 World Cup campaign and said they must "develop braver players and stop fearing". He was 29 and didn't play for England again, but he was right. Bazball? Perhaps it should have been coined Raviball.
For the second match in a row, Farbrace despaired at Sussex's self-destructive batting display. First Essex, now this. Three run-outs, a frozen innings of 1 in 11 balls from Pakistan's Shadab Khan (back in the side after his on-field collision with Nathan McAndrew, who remains absent) and Garton's determination to get out on the reverse sweep were all contenders when it came to raising Farbrace's blood pressure.
Sussex were handily placed at 60 for 2 in 7.1 overs, driven forward by Tom Clark's 36 from 25 balls. Then Clark cut Liam Dawson through the hands of backward point, pushed Dan Ibrahim for a second run he didn't fancy and the batter was well short as Ross Whiteley sprinted off the cover boundary and flung in to the bowler's end.
When Scott Currie outdid Clark in the following over, squared up as he turned to leg and edging to short third, Sussex's decline was set in motion: Currie is shaping up for a breakthrough season. Shadab, who had a poor season at Yorkshire last summer, never fashioned a response and eventually swept Dawson straight up in the air. Two balls later, Dawson slipped one through the gate as Michael Burgess came down the pitch and McDermott grabbed and missed, but inadvertently thighed the ball into the stumps to complete the dismissal. Dawson's 2 for 14 revealed the left-arm spinner at his best.
Sussex's misadventure worsened. Garton was fortunate to escape when his reverse sweep against Mason Crane was almost palmed between two fielders at backward square. Astonishingly, he repeated the shot next ball, was undone by the legspinner, and James Fuller held the catch without the assistance of a team-mate.
Two calamitous run-outs followed. James Coles fell attempting an impossible run to backward point (Fynn Hudson-Prentice, the striker, was ball watching, so he was not much better) and Ari Karvelas was sent back as he envisaged an equally crackpot second run to Vince's misfield. Even Vince's errors are turning out well in a magnificent run of form.
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