Middlesex won by 69 runs: Middlesex 195-6; Hampshire 126
Middlesex, bottom of South Group for the last two seasons, offered hope of a revival in T20 fortunes as they launched this year’s campaign with an unexpectedly comfortable victory over perennial contenders Hampshire at Uxbridge.
It was a contrasting tale of two new captains as Middlesex gained their first home win over the visitors since 2007, and their first of the season after six draws in four-day cricket.
Dawid Malan, making his debut as Middlesex skipper, made light of the absence on IPL duty of Brendon McCullum and Eion Morgan with a 48-ball 93 studded with ten fours and five sixes.
His counterpart Sean Ervine, leading Hampshire for the first time as James Vince is on Test duty, was out for a first ball duck. Ervine had put Middlesex in and was relieved at restricting them to 195-6 given the hosts were 150-3 with five overs left.
However, Hampshire collapsed from 55-1 to 77-7 before eventually subsiding to 126 all out with more than four overs remaining Some batsmen become inhibited when entrusted with the responsibility of captaincy, others thrive upon it.
Malan is clearly one of the latter. He hit his first ball, bowled by off-spinner Will Smith, straight down the ground for four. Remarkably he hit his next four balls, bowled by former West Indian quick Tino Best, for boundaries too. The next ball he blocked, and damaged his bat, requiring a new one.
Malan made 121 against Hampshire in red-ball cricket earlier this season and continued that form to reach his half-century off 27 balls.
The skipper continued to pepper the tree-lined boundary with sixes before being dismissed off Gareth Andrew with a slash to Tino Best at fly slip. Half-century partnerships with Adam Voges (23) and John Simpson (15) had put Middlesex on course for a substantial score but Shahid Afridi bookmarked his final over with the wickets of Ryan Higgins and Simpson.
That kept Middlesex below 200 despite Best conceding 51 off four wicketless overs. Hampshire began slowly, being 12-1 of 15 balls with Jimmy Adams spectacularly caught by substitute fielder Nathan Sowter. Ten balls later they were 48-1 with Adam Wheater cutting loose.
However, he miscued to be caught for a 15-ball 30 and Toby Roland-Jones knocked out Ervine’s middle stump next ball. Afridi hit the hat-trick ball for four but was run out attempting a second. With Michael Carberry having perished to a top edge in the interim Hampshire had lost four wickets for nine runs in 12 balls.
Though Liam Dawson hit 46 off 29 balls the contest was effectively over. Hampshire have qualified for finals day for six seasons in succession while Middlesex have not escaped the group stages since winning the competition in 2008. It is early days, but this season could be different for both.