Hampshire need two wins from their last three T20 group games to secure quarter-final qualification after collapsing to another heavy defeat.
It was hoped that the eight-wicket mauling against Surrey nine days ago was a one-off. But Hampshire’s last-eight ambitions are in the balance after Somerset thrashed them by 39 runs in front of a ‘Family Festival’ crowd of 6,400, the Ageas Bowl’s biggest of the season.
This was like a return to the bad old days for Hampshire, the sort of defeat that was commonplace before they started making Finals Day appearances an annual occurrence.
Hampshire will become the first county to reach the T20 semi-finals for a fifth successive season if they get to Edgbaston again this year.
The good news is that their destiny is still in their own hands. Win their next two home games, against Middlesex on Friday and Sussex a week later and they will have qualified before the difficult trip to South Division leaders Essex a fortnight tomorrow.
Liam Dawson's imminent return will help make up for the loss of South Africa’s Kyle Abbott for the rest of the group stage.
But the manner of this defeat, which saw them reduced to 36-5 at the end of the powerplay, is a worry.
Hampshire were chasing a relatively modest 156, despite taking only four Somerset wickets, but the game was effectively lost in the first six overs of their reply.
The innings got off to the worst possible start when James Vince was out for his sixth single-figure score in seven T20 innings.
Jimmy Adams got a leading edge at the end of Dirk Nannes’ first over and after two successive off-side fours, Will Smith (16) hit a rare full toss from the Australian straight to deep mid-wicket.
If that was not bad enough, Hampshire bookended the final over of the powerplay, bowled by Somerset debutant Tim Groenewald, with two more self-inflicted dismissals.
Glenn Maxwell and Michael Carberry were both run out in kamikaze fashion.
Maxwell, desperate for a score of note after a below-par start to the campaign, was run out from deep mid-wicket after being sent back by Carberry, having returned for a second.
His frustration was evident when he slammed his bat down after returning to Hampshire’s dug out.
Then Alfonso Thomas completed an appalling start for Hampshire by running out Carberry, one of only two players in Hampshire’s top six to reach double figures, with a direct hit from short fine-leg, after Sean Ervine had tickled the ball around the corner.
Hampshire desperately needed another big innings from Ervine, but the game was over when he was stumped after missing Max Waller’s googly.
The collapse was reminiscent of Hampshire’s first T20 game against Somerset, when they slipped from 40-1 to 97 all out while chasing only 105.
But they had the wicket to blame on that occasion. This was entirely self-inflicted. Coles provided hope with a 19-ball 25, hitting Waller for 18 off five balls after being dropped by the young leg-spinner, including an audacious switch-hit for four and a six over long-on.
But the lower order was left with far too much to do. Coles soon holed out to Waller at deep mid-wicket and Wood, having been the pick of the Hampshire attack with 1-21, was caught at short fine leg.
Michael Bates scooped four back over the head of Craig Kieswetter on the way to his highest T20 score, while putting on 27 with Abbott (16), but the game was officially over when he departed with 19 balls still remaining.