HAMPSHIRE qualified for the T20 Blast quarter-finals for the sixth successive season after winning an Ageas Bowl thriller last night.
Michael Carberry’s magnificent 87 not out (63 balls, five fours, five sixes) set up the six-run win, a result that ends Sussex’s chances of reaching the last eight, while ensuring that Hampshire have another quarter-final to look forward to in a fortnight’s time.
But it was Danny Briggs’s 4-28 that ensured the best efforts of the outstanding Luke Wright did not inflict a third successive home defeat on Hampshire - and a fourth in five games.
That would have represented Hampshire’s worst run of T20 form since the inaugural Twenty20 Cup way back in 2003.
Last night was another reminder that the finest line between success and failure is in the shortest format.
That makes Hampshire’s achievement in reaching the knockout stages every year since 2009 all the more impressive.
Securing a home quarter-final with a top-two finish looks beyond them (they will need to beat Essex at Chelmsford on Tuesday night and hope Surrey lose their last two).
But the main thing is they are there after winning in front of a crowd of 6,900, the biggest of the season at The Ageas Bowl.
It was far from a routine win. After winning the toss, a terrible start against Lewis Hatchett saw captain James Vince caught at cover (his ninth successive powerplay dismissal) and Glenn Maxwell, having been promoted to number three, caught at deep mid-wicket.
Hampshire limped to a powerplay total of just 33-2, but the biggest partnership of the county’s T20 season was already underway.
Carberry and Adams put on 111 from 76 balls to lay the foundation of Hampshire’s 177-3. Stefan Piolet and Chris Liddle were both hit for sixes in an over by Carberry and Adams midway through the innings.
The left-handers capitalised on the short mid-wicket boundary on the Nursery side of the ground and showed awesome power in hitting the ball straight and over long-on.
Carberry reached a 35-ball fifty with a long-on six against Liddle and a similar Adams strike against the last ball of the same over, the 12th, took Hampshire to 100-2.
Adams was eventually out top edging a sweep but Sean Ervine accelerated the momentum with an unbeaten 32 from only 14 balls (three fours, two sixes).
Perhaps enjoying the security of having Adam Wheater back in the side, Carberry and Ervine added 58 from the last 31 balls.
Ervine showed great imagination and hit two sixes in three balls against the returning Hatchett, including a pull over fine-leg in taking 21 off the penultimate over.
Carberry saved his most impressive shot for the penultimate ball of the innings from Magoffin, which he pulled over a temporary stand and into Nursery Ground.
But Hampshire were soon up against it.
Wright’s imperious 116 not out (66 balls, 13 fours, four sixes) kept Sussex in the hunt till the very end.
They were favourites after smashing 69-1 from the powerplay, not helped by a poor fifth over from Ervine.
But the introduction of Briggs began to turn the game slowly back in Hampshire’s favour.
It began when he bowled Chris Nash (28 from 19 balls), who had swept Liam Dawson and upper cut Matt Coles for his two sixes, with the penultimate ball of the powerplay.
Nash and Wright were the only Sussex batsmen to reach double figures with the latter scoring a remarkable 67.8 per cent of his team’s runs.
New Zealander Craig Cachopa, in his third game for Sussex, cut to deep backward point and Ashar Zaidi, making room to cut Will Smith through the off side, was bowled three balls later.
Briggs took two wickets in three balls when he returned and in his next over became the first Hampshire player to take 100 T20 wickets when Will Beer holed out.
But Wright was in awesome form and pulled a rare Briggs full toss for six to keep Sussex in the game.
Thankfully Coles only conceded four from the penultimate over, during which Magoffin was run out.
Sussex needed 17 off the final over and ten from the last two balls when Wright cover drove Chris Wood for four.
But Wood held his nerve. Once again, Hampshire had done just enough.