HAMPSHIRE will qualify for the T20 quarter-finals for the sixth successive season if they return to form by beating Sussex tomorrow (7pm).
James Vince’s side have been well beaten in their last two games, by 39 runs to Somerset and 50 runs to Middlesex, both at The Ageas Bowl.
They have lost three of their last four games, having also been thrashed by eight wickets, by Surrey at The Oval three weeks ago.
Now they have to bounce back from their most recent defeat, their first in the LV County Championship this season – Wednesday’s dramatic two-wicket loss against Essex at Colchester.
Hampshire need to finish in the South Division’s top four to reach the last eight and continue a run that began in 2009.
But there are myriad ifs, buts and maybes.
Hampshire can book their place tonight. But if they suffer a third successive T20 defeat for the first time since 2007 they will have to beat leaders Essex at Chelmsford on Tuesday to ensure their progress.
Two more back-to-back defeats is unthinkable. Not since 2003, the inaugural season of the original Twenty20 Cup, have Hampshire lost four in a row.
It would probably mean the end of Hampshire’s tournament. But even then they could still qualify, if Essex and Surrey win all their remaining games.
The permutations are endless. Should they win their last two games, Hampshire could pip Surrey to second place, which would ensure a home quarter-final at the beginning of August, when Kyle Abbott will be available again.
But they cannot afford to do anything except focus on beating Sussex tonight.
Sussex also have everything to play for after bouncing back from successive defeats to beat Glamorgan on Tuesday, when Luke Wright kept their hopes alive with a 39-ball 66.
But Sussex will effectively be knocked out if they lose this evening.
Hampshire have dropped Michael Bates and recalled Adam Wheater for tonight’s clash. Wheater’s omission a fortnight ago coincided with Hampshire’s recent run of bad form.
Liam Dawson is also in contention for a recall after impressing at Colchester, after two months out with the groin injury he sustained in the opening T20 game of the season.
Hampshire (from): Carberry, Vince, Adams, Smith, Ervine, Maxwell, Coles, Wheater. Rimmington, Briggs, Wood, Dawson.