T20: Middlesex hopes hit by Hampshire duo
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Chris Morris and Kyle Abbott claimed three wickets apiece as Hampshire kept their Vitality Blast hopes alive with a seven-wicket win over Middlesex at Lord’s.
The men from the Ageas came through the Grace Gates knowing they needed four wins out of four to have a chance of making the knockout stages and their South African pace duo all but clinched the first of these as they bundled out the hosts for 128.
James Vince's 69 made short work of the chase, leaving Middlesex, who have been riding high in the South Group standings still looking for a couple of wins to book their own place in the quarter-finals.
Middlesex were put in after losing the toss and struggled from the outset.
Paul Stirling's poor form in T20 this year continued when he became Abbott's first victim, LBW to the first ball of the fourth over.
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Dawid Malan (23) and Stevie Eskinazi briefly threatened to post a score, but once the former had edged Morris (3-22) through to keeper Lewis McManus the Seaxes lost their way.
Eoin Morgan (20) continued the cameos trend, striking two sixes, before perishing attempting a third from the bowling of the excellent Liam Dawson (1-18), who bowled really well in tandem with South African debutant Tabraiz Shamsi (1-32).
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Middlesex's own debutant, Pakistan Test star Mohammed Hafeez tried to hold things together with 34, sharing a stand of 46 with wicketkeeper John Simpson.
But he was bowled by Chris Wood before Abbott (3-25) dismissed Simpson and Toby Roland-Jones with successive balls.
Morris picked up two late scalps as Middlesex lost their last five wickets for seven runs in 16 balls.
Having top scored with the bat, Hafeez struck an early blow with the ball when Rilee Rossouw drove him straight to Nathan Sowter at cover.
Hampshire skipper Vince though looked in ominous form from the get-go, one sumptuous cover-drive underlining his class.
Sam Northeast tried to follow his example only to blast a Roland-Jones delivery straight up in the air and give Stirling a simple catch.
But Dawson (35 not out), fresh from his unbeaten half-century against Surrey in the county Championship 24 hours earlier, proved a valuable ally to Vince, who went to 50 from 33 balls with his seventh boundary.
The 50 partnership came in just 32 deliveries and although Vince holed out on the cover boundary, Hampshire sprinted home with 31 balls to spare.
Simpson said: "To start with we were probably 30-40 runs short of where we wanted to be. 160 was probably a pretty good score on that wicket.
"We needed to extend some partnerships, but the guys who had got in got out which can happen in a game, especially in T20. It is one of those things that happens.
"We want to play an aggressive brand of cricket where you can get bowled out for 120 trying to get to 160 rather than just scraping to 130.
"The innings stalled towards the end and then we couldn't create enough opportunities with the ball to put them under any pressure in the first six overs and they cantered home didn't they."
Turning Point: Middlesex have been heavily reliant on Malan when AB De Villiers has not been available, so his early demise always looked likely to spell trouble for the hosts.
Shot/Ball of the match: A few sixes were candidates here, but for sheer class, Dawson's late cut to the third man boundary off Sowter gets the nod.
Unsung hero: Liam Dawson's frugal spell of spin prevented the hosts from building any momentum and built a desperation in the batsmen that Morris and Abbott cashed in on later in the innings.
What's next: Middlesex will attempt to avenge their defeat to Sussex earlier in the competition when they play host to them at Uxbridge on Saturday, while Hampshire must build on this win when they entertain Essex on Sunday.