Essex Eagles foiled by Hampshire's Fuller in Vitality Blast
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
James Fuller continued his renaissance season as Hampshire Hawks extended their up-tick in Vitality Blast form to beat Essex Eagles by 32 runs.
All-rounder Fuller has become a key member of Hampshire's first choice XIs in both the Blast and LV= Insurance County Championship after a winter honing his skills with new bowling coach Graeme Welch.
He is the Hawks' third-highest run-scorer and took his wicket tally to eight with 4-30 as Hampshire made it three wins on the trot by defending 155, to put their T20 season back on track - with Chris Wood and Brad Wheal also boasting a pair of wickets.
Earlier, Ben Allison claimed his best T20 figures of 3-33 and leg spinner Matt Critchley snared 3-25 to take his Blast tally to nine for the season; with James Vince top scoring with 44.
Hampshire's victory was watched by 2,300 local children as part of the club's Schools Takeover, who created an excited and appreciative atmosphere.
Having chosen to bat, Hampshire's innings consisted of two platform setting partnerships - Vince leading stands of 49 and 47 with Tom Prest and Joe Weatherley - and then a mad dash to reach par in the last six overs. 107-2 in 14 overs ended up being 155-6 in 20.
Vince and Ben McDermott's run of record opening partnerships came to an end when the Australian edged Allison behind in the third over.
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Vince's innings was the exception to the rule that the Hawks skipper only produces pretty innings. He was forced to scrap on a tacky used wicket against accurate bowling; earning each of his three fours and swiped six in his innings.
Prest and Weatherley kept him company with 30 and 38 respectively, before Toby Albert's 24 off 12-ball cameo at the end.
Essex were superb in the field. Allison and Pepper each claimed a pair of catches - the latter just managing to release the ball before he stepped over the boundary and then legally completed the catch to dismiss Ross Whiteley. Shane Snater's quick thinking after an Aron Nijjar misfield was equally impressive.
In reply, Fuller castled Feroze Khushi as Essex found it equally as difficult to find runs in now soupy conditions. Michael Pepper was given a life before he had scored when Chris Wood dropped a steepler, something Liam Dawson didn't repeat to dismiss Adam Rossington.
Pepper was caught and bowled by Mason Crane and Critchley slapped to deep cover as the drizzle got heavier, with Essex slipping further and further behind the DLS par.
Paul Walter holed out after an enterprising 27 and Simon Harmer was bowled by Fuller. Wood and Wheal then combined for a classic death bowling display to dismiss Tom Westley, Nijjar, Allison and Sam Cook in the final three overs - as no Essex batter really 'got in'.