Essex batter Pepper's Vitality Blast best proves too hot for Hampshire
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
Michael Pepper smashed his Vitality Blast best as Essex demolished Hampshire by eight wickets at Chelmsford.
Batter Pepper hit four sixes and eight fours in a 75-ball 42, bettering his previous best of 55 not out.
Matt Critchley pummelled 45 in a 100 stand with Pepper as the Eagles chased down Hampshire's below-par 150 with 37 balls to spare to secure their first home T20 victory over Hampshire since 2017.
Essex have won two from three in the competition, while the Hawks are winless in the South Group.
Will Buttleman was caught and bowled off his glove and Adam Rossington was starved of the strike before Nathan Ellis kissed his leg stump, before Pepper took over.
He showed power with conventional shots but mixed it with some inventive flicks. The shot to bring up his half-century, however, was the combination of the two - a ramp shot with some added wrist to take the ball the distance.
Pepper, the Eagles' top run-scorer in the Blast last season with 260 runs, was not finished as he struck Liam Dawson for back-to-back sixes over midwicket and then into the Hayes Close End gardens.
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Mason Crane was his victim in the following over with another straight six, while Critchley went somewhat under the radar for his 24-ball 45 - which included two huge maximums.
Earlier, Essex won the toss and elected to bowl first - their previous six victories all coming when chasing in this format- and after a 25-minute delay due to rain they stifled the Hawks in the powerplay.
The visitors only managed to get to 33 with the departure of the yorked Aneurin Donald.
Sam Cook was the main architect of the strong start with a boundary coming off his first delivery and then 11 dot balls - with his second over a wicket maiden.
James Vince and Ben McDermott - on his 100th T20 appearance - both fell as Hampshire laboured to 59 for three after 10.1 overs - but Joe Weatherley, Ross Whiteley and James Fuller made sure they had a total to defend.
Weatherley swept both sides of the wicket with excellence in his 37, while Whiteley and Fuller used brute force to clear the short boundaries; both striking two sixes each.
Curiously Essex's two best bowlers Cook and Simon Harmer only bowled three of their allocation, both with figures of two for 16. Critchley's miserly one for 20 was also impressive.
Essex head to Glamorgan on Thursday and Gloucestershire on Friday, before their next home game against Kent on Tuesday June 7.