An exciting stand of 126 in 21 overs between Nasser Hussain and Ronnie Irani for the second wicket had looked as if it would take Essex to a comfortable victory after their bowlers had done a good job in the first part of the day. Both made 50 before they perished to exuberant drives, but soon Essex seemed to be in control.
Then in successive overs, off-spinner Sean Udal had Robert Rollins and Stephen Peters well stumped off irresponsible strokes and with three overs left Essex were 170 for 6 needing 24 more. This brought in Danny Law, who hit Udal high over mid-wicket for four off his first ball and straight drove him for four more two balls later.
Then Paul Grayson, who had been firmly in charge at the other end, had a wild drive at John Stephenson and was caught at cover. With 11 needed from the last two overs, Robin Smith brought back Nixon McLean, who had bowled extremely fast in his first spell. Now with his fifth ball, he bowled Mark Ilott, but this was as near as Hampshire could get and Law effectively settled things with that remarkable six in the last over.
The Hampshire bowlers had earlier made a good start with the 37-year- old Cardigan Connor and McLean dismissing both Essex openers, including Australian Stuart Law, for only 17. But Hussain and Irani now seemed to take the match right away from Hampshire until Irani was caught off the boundary off Stephenson in the 28th over with the score 133 and the final drama to come.
For all their near success against Essex and their victories in their first two AXA League matches, Hampshire have the look of a side who are going to finish some way from the prize money this season. Smith, their one pedigree batsman, who has now taken over the captaincy, has begun the season badly and when he does find his form he looks as though he is going to be sadly short of top-class support at the other end of the wicket.
Hampshire were put into bat and were given a robust start by the able Stephenson who made an attractive 20, which included a straight drive for six off Mark Ilott.