It should have been so straightforward. Hampshire skittled for next to nothing, Gloucestershire, the kings of the one-day jungle, roaring to a one-sided victory and revenge for the hammering they received against the same side in the same place in a National League last weekend.
Instead a disappointingly small crowd was dragged to the edge of their seats as Hampshire made a serious fist of defending a seemingly inadequate total before Gloucestershire, the holders, made it. They had overs to spare and bundles of shredded nerves.
A week ago, Shane Warne had just landed after flying in from Zimbabwe, but he still turned up the following day, won the toss, took four wickets, had a hand in a run-out and scored 48.
Yesterday the Australian leg-spinner and Hampshire captain was at it again. This time, though, he did not get everything his own way. True, he won the toss but he missed out on runs and Craig Spearman, Gloucestershire's New Zealand batsman, thumped a bruising fifty - including 22 runs off one James Hamblin over, which also included five wides - to get his team's chase off to a great start.
But then things went somewhat awry. Alan Mullally bowled Spearman, and had Alex Gidman lbw. Warne took care of Matt Windows, also lbw, and struck again not long after to have theopener Philip Weston, followed by Chris Taylor, leg before each time - on both occasions the batsmen were sweeping.
When Mullally had Mark Alleyne snapped up in the slips with Gloucestershire a tantalising 23 runs away from victory, it began to look bleak for the home side. Just before Alleyne's departure the Gloucestershire one-day captain had been involved in an accidental collision with the fiery Warne. The latter seemed to have hurt his right elbow and play was held up while he let Alleyne know what he thought. Stephen Adshead became Warne's fourth victim with 18 wanted.
Thankfully Shoaib Malik, with 32 not out, was equal to the task and he shepherded Lewis through choppy waters to victory and a place in the fourth round. Yet no one would have predicted this tight finish.
Warne, having won the toss, saw Jon Lewis tempt Derek Kenway into an extravagant shot and Alex Gidman snapped up the catch at second slip. Warne then arrived at the crease, edged his first ball to the keeper and departed, although he did not appear to go quietly, spending the first few yards responding to remarks made by the triumphal Gloucestershire fielders.
However peeved he might have felt about the way it was going, Warne had cause for further angst just a couple of balls later when Shabbir Ahmed, the Pakistani pace bowler, had Hamblin caught behind. At that point Hampshire were 4 for 3.
Warne's decision to bat had not been unreasonable at the time, because then there was no significant cloud cover, but by the time they came out the atmosphere had changed and Hampshire hearts must have been as heavy as the skies.
The swing band of Lewis, Shabbir and Mike Smith had the hapless batsmen groping and grasping as they repeatedly beat the bat.
Smith accounted for the Australian Michael Dighton, while Lewis put paid to John Crawley and Will Kendall.
Smith then had Nic Pothas caught behind and when Shaun Udal departed, caught in the deep off Alleyne, it looked all over for Hampshire at 91 for 8.
But Dimitri Mascarenhas fashioned a tail out of the tattered remnants of the Hampshire innings. He reached a deserved half-century, sharing in a 60-run stand with Chris Tremlett for the ninth wicket, before he was last man out.Reuse content