Essex 152 for 2 (Pepper 75*) beat Hampshire 150 for 6 (McDermott 38) by eight wickets

Michael Pepper smashed his T20 best as Essex Eagles demolished Hampshire Hawks by eight wickets in their Vitality Blast clash at the Cloud County Ground, Chelmsford.

Pepper dispatched four sixes to go alongside eight fours to crash a 42-ball 75 – bettering his previous best of 55 not out. Matt Critchley pummelled 45 in a 100-run 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. The only other time they have lost their first three Blast fixtures they finished second from bottom 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. But Pepper dominated from then on.

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, Eagles’ top run-scorer in the Blast last season, wasn’t finished at a fifty as he dispatched Liam Dawson for back-to-back sixes over midwicket and then into the Hayes Close End gardens. 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 Hawks in the powerplay. The visitors only managed to get to 33 with the departure of Aneurin Donald, yorked by Sam Cook.

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 3 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 in his 37, while Whiteley and Fuller used brute force to clear the shot boundaries; both striking two sixes each.

Curiously Essex’s two best bowlers Cook and Simon Harmer only bowled three of their allocation, both with identical figures of 2 for 16. Critchley’s miserly 1 for 20 was also exemplary.