Sussex secure memorable double over Hampshire as Blast campaign reaches new heights

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Sussex Sharks secured a priceless seventh victory from 10 matches in the Vitality T20 Blast as they won a high-scoring contest with Hampshire Hawks to complete an astounding El Classicoast double.

Sussex Sharks (200-7, 20 overs) win by 22 runs over Hampshire Hawks (178 all out, 19.1 overs)

On a night where proceedings paled in comparison to England’s Euro 2024 Semi-Final and the 1st Central County Ground was only half-full, Sussex ignored the low-key nature of the game to display their all-round quality.

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James Coles was the undoubted star with an energising innings of 46 and excellent figures of 4-34, while solid scores from Harrison Ward (39), Tom Clark (37) and Tom Alsop (35) helped Sussex to an imposing score of 200-7.

Sussex continue to go well in the Blast | Picture: Eva GilbertSussex continue to go well in the Blast | Picture: Eva Gilbert
Sussex continue to go well in the Blast | Picture: Eva Gilbert

Alongside partnership-breaker Coles, Tymal Mills, Jack Carson and Danny Lamb then chipped in a wicket apiece in a Hampshire innings bookended by sloppy run outs.

While the result all but consigns seventh-placed Hampshire to a group stage exit in this year’s Blast, another win for Sussex consolidates their position as the South Group’s second-placed side, with a lead of three points over Somerset, Essex and Gloucestershire just below them.

It was a historic double over the Hawks for Sussex too, with real bragging right over their noisy neighbours after two memorable wins in the last three weeks.

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Coming into the game slumped second-bottom in the South Group, Hampshire needed a slice of fortune to reignite their campaign and seemed to have got it when captain James Vince won the toss.

With the cricketing gods having saved most of the day’s sunshine for the evening, it seemed an advantage to bowl first with Vince choosing to do just that.

The ensuing powerplay proved to be mixed for Sussex, as Ward feasted upon a ropey John Turner over to smash 20 runs, but both Ward and fellow opener Daniel Hughes fell to disappointing dismissals.

Hughes went first – for a regrettable duck as he very honestly walked when the umpire was deliberating a feather through to wicket-keeper Ben McDermott – while Ward was out for a more admirable 39 runs off 20 balls, chipping to Vince at mid-on.

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Ward’s score disguised an uneasy time at the crease, with hard work required initially to get the measure of a slightly slow pitch.

His was an innings of muscle and risk versus reward, while the pair who followed – Clark and Coles – played with much more composure.

Hampshire almost seemed content to let the young Sussex pair play their shots, using the miserly medium-pace bowling of Benny Howell to restrict them to ones and twos. Every few balls, however, the prodigious pair would open their arms and unleash some beautiful drives and scoops, keeping the score ticking over at a healthy ten per over.

A tight over from the pacey James Fuller finally kept a lid on the scoring after Sussex had reached 122-2, and having conceded just four runs turned the screw sufficiently. The very next ball, Coles – on 46 not out – went for a great heave towards the long-on boundary but only found the hands of Howell, who gratefully accepted the offer of a dismissmal.

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Sussex had to knuckle down if they were to continue to a competitive score, with the batting talent in the Hampshire line-up always lurking on the horizon.

Fuller, however, would have a more direct hand in the next wicket to fall as the burly South Africa-born bowler – who had the huggable frame and messy mop of brown hair of a human teddy bear – used his experience to draw a top edge from Clark. Joe Weatherley completed a tough catch on the leg-side boundary to see Clark off for 37, putting Sussex in a spot of bother.

It needed some inventive batting from new man Danny Lamb to re-energise the innings, and that is exactly what the Sharks got as the Lancastrian struck two fours and then a glorious six all by ramping. Lamb perished on 22 with the score at 169-5 in the 18th over, but some speedy scoring from Tom Alsop (34 off 16) and Nathan McAndrew (13 off 7) gave Sussex the lift they needed to finish off a nice round figure of 200-7.

This was the 11th time in their T20 history that the Sharks had reached 200 at Hove, and 22nd anywhere in the country, presenting a huge test to the visiting batsmen.

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While Hampshire had all the talent required to pull off such a chase, their start was suicidal. From the third ball of Ollie Robinson’s opening over, McDermott prodded down the ground and went for an absurd run that captain Vince never agreed to.

The Australian desperately headed for home but the throw to John Simpson was spot on, with the wicket-keeper cannily whipping off the bails. The misery continued for Hampshire in the second over, with James Coles proving to be a great shout as a powerplay bowler by Tymal Mills as young batsman Tom Prest spooned a shot down the ground to Clark.

Weatherley, however, ignored the failures of those above him to accelerate in the rest of the powerplay with two glorious shots off Robinson to wrestle control back for Hampshire. The middle-order batsman survived a decent chance for Lamb to catch him with a pull shot that had just enough pace to see the Sussex man spill the ball, while captain Vince also got lucky as Mills and Hughes failed to decide who was underneath a lofted effort.

After the Hawks finished the powerplay at 49-2, Sussex had to dig deep in their bag of tricks. Naturally, it was a man for whom T20 seems to be a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, Jack Carson, who made the breakthrough.

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The Northern Irishman drew Weatherley into a powerful shot that the perfectly-stationed Alsop caught impressively, and the Hawks man was out for 34. Vince soon followed down the mire, mistiming a speedy delivery from Lamb that careered onto his stumps to be bowled on 32.

Surprisingly, Toby Albert and Benny Howell showed that the game was not up, however. Helping themselves to boundaries with top-class shots off speedsters Mills and McAndrew, the pair accelerated the run rate to go exactly at the required rate of ten an over.

Albert was particularly bold for a 22-year-old with limited T20 exposure, but even his rambunctiousness was not enough to win the game – being bowled by a beautiful delivery from Coles for 27 when he went down on his haunches in the 14th over. Coles followed up in the same over with the wicket of Fuller, who could only find the hands of Danny Lamb within the circle when cramped up by spin.

Those dismissals did the lion’s share of the damage, but Hampshire’s hopes formally died in the next over as Howell was comically run-out by Robinson, stuck down one end as Liam Dawson refused to move and Simpson assisting Robinson with a nifty kick down the crease.

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The score reached 147-8 when Dawson chipped up a Mills delivery and was excellently caught by McAndrew, while Coles got in on the lower-order action with a fourth wicket when Brad Wheal flogged to Clark on the boundary rope. McAndrew finally completed the job for Sussex in the 20th over when a stubborn last wicket partnership was broken by a run out of Chris Wood on 21.

With Ollie Watkins’ winner for England going in just before the final wicket fell, too, it was a stunning way to end the night, with the crowd in raptures no matter who they were supporting in Hove.

All-rounder Coles said: “It was critical we bounced back after Friday’s defeat against Glamorgan. We spoke after that match, though we don’t want to get too hung up over losses. The skipper [Tymal Mills] reminded us that good performances often come after defeats and we bounced back really well.

“He is very honest, and that’s the best way to be. He says it how it is. We got over the line today, so happy days. I did well for my part tonight but we’re in the fortunate position where everyone is in good touch.”

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