HAMPSHIRE suffered a first T20 Blast defeat in five games – after another thriller against Somerset.
Not for the first time, the counties went to the last ball in the shortest format before Somerset clinched a dramatic one-run win.
Will Smith’s off-spin has been one of Hampshire’s finds of the season but he was so nearly the hero with the bat last night, an unbeaten 25 from only nine balls so nearly inspiring a dramatic heist.
With Hampshire seemingly out of the game, needing 34 off the last two overs, Smith hit three late sixes to take the game to the final ball after coming in at No 9.
Having arrived at the crease with Hampshire reeling on 139-7, needing 38 off 16 balls following the loss of Sean Ervine and Matt Coles to successive deliveries, Smith starred in front of a bumper 6,800 crowd at sun-kissed Taunton.
It was a remarkable finale that began with Coles delighting the home fans by failing to execute an attempted scoop/paddle to the first ball he faced after Ervine had drilled an Alfonso Thomas full toss, straight to long on at the beginning of the 18th over.
But Smith nearly silenced them during an eventful penultimate over, bowled by the experienced Dirk Nannes.
A memorable passage of play began with he and Wheater dropped off successive balls, at backward point and deep backward square leg.
Sensing that this was his night, Smith responded by driving Nannes on to the press gantry at long on and then, after a wide, pulling another maximum over mid-wicket.
It meant Hampshire only needed 17 off the final over, from another experienced practitioner of death bowling in Alfonso Thomas.
Wheater carved the first ball for four and after a quick single Smith pulled six more over mid-wicket.
When they survived a dangerous two to mid-off next ball, only four were required from two balls.
Thomas’s experience held sway, but it was a magnificent effort from the eighth-wicket pair to get Hampshire so close to Somerset’s 176-4, a par score at batter-friendly Taunton, after the visitors had won the toss.
Hampshire had enjoyed a successful powerplay, reaching 57-2 after the first six overs, which included a pulled six over the adjacent block of flats against Thomas by Carberry, whose 24-ball 38 set the tone.
But then Carberry was caught at long on in the first post-powerplay over.
And after launching Meschede over the top, Glenn Maxwell was out attempting to reverse sweep the excellent Max Waller, whose parsimony made the absence of father-to-be Danny Briggs even more acute.
Unlike Somerset, who capitalised on the absence of the competition’s most successful bowler, Hampshire lost wickets regularly.
Owais Shah, having seen a pull shot against Overton ‘palmed over the bar’ for six by Peterson at deep square leg, attempted a similar result only to be caught by deep mid-wicket in the same over, the 13th.
But Hampshire showed that they can never be written off.