Hampshire boosted their hopes of clinching a home tie in the quarter-finals of the NatWest T20 Blast with a five-wicket win over Essex at Chelmsford.
Matt Coles posted the fastest half-century in the competition so far this season, taking just 18 balls to reach the landmark, as Hampshire eased past the home side’s total of 167-9 with 16 deliveries to spare.
Discarded England opener Michael Carberry also impressed in front of the Sky Sports cameras, making 57 from 28 deliveries with four sixes and seven fours at the top of the visitors' order.
Hampshire had to overcome the loss of skipper James Vince to the first ball of their reply to end the group stages with a win; the two points move them into second place in the table, though Surrey could still finish above them as they have two games remaining.
While South Division winners Essex are already certain to be playing at Chelmsford in the knockout stages, they will be disappointed to have suffered back-to-back defeats following Sunday’s loss to Gloucestershire.
Opener Mark Pettini top-scored with 44 for the Eagles while skipper Ryan ten Doeschate made 36 before becoming one of three wickets for Will Smith, his right-arm off-spin also accounting for Jesse Ryder before the New Zealander had troubled the scorers.
Tom Westley (31) helped add 51 for the second wicket but the hosts slipped from 52-1 to 66-4 against Hampshire’s plethora of slow bowlers.
They also lost another clatter of wickets in the closing stages of a rather stop-start innings, even with Ten Doeschate hitting three of their nine sixes during his 20-ball knock.
Graham Napier contributed 17 with the bat and then struck immediately with the ball at the start of Hampshire’s chase, trapping Vince leg before.
However Carberry and Glen Maxwell combined in an 83-run stand that saw the latter for once play second fiddle in terms of run-scoring, the Australian contributing 25 from 24 deliveries before going lbw to Napier.
His departure led to a promotion up the order for Coles, who responded to the opportunity with five sixes and three fours in a fine display of hitting that made sure Hampshire would coast to victory.
Although he wasn’t quite able to see the job through, David Masters getting him caught at long-off by Ravi Bopara, the damage he had done allowed Smith (seven not out) and Sean Ervine, who was unbeaten on one, to nudge Hampshire home.