JAMES Vince inspired Hampshire to a first win as T20 Blast captain in a floodlit thriller against Sussex.
Vince continued his love affair with Hove by continuing his mesmerising form in all formats, setting up an 18-run win with a 31-ball 52 after winning the toss.
He also shone in the field in his first big test as captain as Hampshire defended 177-5, restricting Sussex to 159-5 in reply.
Vince scored his career-best 85 not out at Hove three years ago as well as a match-winning 58 there in the 2012 YB40 semi-final.
He was just as classy last night. His eight fours included a beautiful cover-drive against slow left-armer Ashar Zaidi early on.
And after losing Jimmy Adams for a 12-ball 19, he struck another slow southpaw - former England man Michael Yardy - for a couple of juicy sixes.
The first was a handsome hit and he reached fifty from only 25 balls by pulling his second maximum over mid-wicket.
He and Adam Wheater, who made a 25-ball 34 after being elevated to No.3 in Michael Carberry’s absence, put on 49 for the third wicket, narrowly avoiding a calamitous run out before guiding Hampshire to an impressive 65-1 at the end of the six-over powerplay.
When Vince finally succumbed to a very good catch by a tumbling Matt Machan, Wheater took the initiative.
He showed why he was picked to bat at No.3 in Michael Carberry’s absence with a wonderful six over long-off against Steffan Piolet and dominated a third-wicket stand of 31 with his former Essex teammate Owais Shah, who contributed six.
It was a boundary-less debut for Shah, who faced 22 balls for his unbeaten 17.
After a below-par Big Bash with the Hobart Hurricanes, he will hope to capitalise on the short boundaries at Merchant Taylors' School against his former Middlesex teammates on Sunday afternoon.
But Sean Ervine was in fine fettle. His 23-ball 38 featured an audacious scoop shot against Yasir Arafat and two sixes, the first of which was a colossal hit against Piolet over mid-wicket, and on to the third-floor balcony of an adjacent block of flats.
Will Smith’s all-round skills were another vital cog in this win.
His five-ball 13 not out was a decisive cameo and he followed that with a match-winning 2-21 with his off-spin, which proved very effective on a slow track.
Rookie off-spinner Brad Taylor was hit out of the attack by Rory Hamilton-Brown on his T20 debut.
But having conceded a mere single off Sussex’s first over, Smith bowled Hamilton-Brown and Ben Brown with the first balls of his second and fourth overs in the latter half of the innings.
Dangerman Luke Wright hit the first three balls of Chris Wood’s second over for 14 before departing to a sensational catch by a backpeddling Jimmy Adams during the powerplay, from which Sussex managed 48-2.
They were always in the game, until Wood (2-36) celebrated his return by bowling Ed Joyce in the penultimate over.