JAMES Vince and Owais Shah treated Hampshire’s supporters to a batting masterclass last night.
The dynamic third-wicket duo dovetailed to wonderful effect as Essex were beaten by eight wickets with 16 balls to spare at The Ageas Bowl.
Hampshire’s bowlers set the tone, with Danny Briggs taking 2-23 to go top of the T20 Blast wicket charts as Essex were restricted to 145-5.
Then Vince and Shah starred with fabulous fifties in an unbroken stand of 103 from 74 balls.
Vince showed why he is the country’s form batsman with an unbeaten 57 (47 balls) that took his aggregate in all competitions this year to 872 - and we are still only in May!
He was not as fluent as he had been in rattling off 25-ball half-centuries against Sussex and Middlesex last weekend, but he did not need to be.
Hampshire’s captain was dropped twice, on 22 and 23, with Jesse Ryder putting down a return chance off his medium pace before T20 debutant Tom Moore shelled a sitter at deep extra cover.
But boy did Vince make Essex pay.
Injury-ravaged Essex have done well to win their first two games and their hopes of third were raised when 21 year-old seamer Matt Salisbury, who took 2-23 in only his second senior T20 game, began Hampshire’s reply with a wicket maiden.
It included the scalp of the recalled Michael Carberry, who picked out deep square leg with the fourth ball he faced.
Jimmy Adams dominated his second-wicket partnership with Vince with a 19-ball 32 that included an audacious, flicked six against Reece Topley, before splicing a slower ball to mid-wicket.
When Shah batted out a maiden against left-armer Topley, Hampshire were a modest 43-2 at the end of the powerplay.
Shah began as though it was a timed Test, taking nine balls to get off the mark.
But he knew exactly what he was doing. When he hit his third six to secure the win, he was also celebrating a 35-ball fifty.
Like Adams, Shah capitalised on the short boundary, a flicked six over square leg the pick of his shots before his winning hit.
Essex tried their best to stem the flow, making use of their spinners on a slow wicket.
But Hampshire are back doing what they do best. A fortnight after losing their opening game, Hampshire have rediscovered the momentum that has given them so much short-format success in recent years.
Vince’s towering maximum over long against slow left-armer Tim Phillips was a formidable strike as was his six over long off against Ryde’s medium pace.
It will soon be impossible for the England selectors to ignore him.
Hampshire’s management, meanwhile, are sure to extend Shah’s deal, which ended last night, even with IPL finalist Glenn Maxwell back for the visit of unbeaten Kent on Thursday.
Before then, Hampshire will be looking to continue their unbeaten start to the LV County Championship season against Derbyshire at The Ageas Bowl over the next four days.