Derbyshire fell to a narrow two-wicket defeat to Hampshire at The Incora County in the Royal London Cup.
Despite 82 from Brooke Guest earlier, Hampshire were left a target of 247. But the tall Ben Aitchison made superb use of a hybrid pitch with bounce for the new ball by claiming four wickets for the first time in his white-ball career in his opening 25 deliveries as Hampshire sunk to 36 for four by the reply’s ninth over.
The sixth wicket had added 104, however, before Middleton went for 64, leaving Albert, like John Arlott a product of Basingstoke, to reach an unbeaten 84, his best in all cricket, and usher Hampshire home.
Derbyshire had themselves started poorly when put in earlier until recovery came from the Australia-raised Guest who found 101 in 20 overs for the fifth wicket with Anuj Dal until Dal was run out for 42 attempting an ambitious single. But when Guest fell, 20 minutes later, Derbyshire, finishing nine down, mustered only 44 more from the last 41 balls.
Aitchison soon had Aneurin Donald and Tom Prest both held at second slip, the latter without score after making 51 and 181 in his previous two innings over the last five days. With a magnificent full inswinger he next bowled Nick Gubbins, breaking the off-stump, for 18 before having Ben Brown caught behind as the visitors made an even worse start than Derbyshire.
A modest revival ended when Felix Organ whipped a long hop to long leg, going for seven with 179 more needed at 5.37 per over when Albert joined Middleton. With Mattie Potts proving expensive, however, the requirement soon fell and if the spinners were initially tight they could not sustain pressure.
For players with only seven 50-over appearances between them hitherto, it was an impressively calm, well calculated performance from the youngsters who resisted seven bowlers until Middleton pulled a Mattie McKiernan long hop to mid wicket and the target became 75 from 15. Keith Barker and Scott Currie came and went after handy support but John Turner, dropped on nought, accompanied Albert home.
Soon after the official government declaration of a drought had been made in the morning, the home side, in apparent sympathy, had themselves lost a quartet of batters in 40 grim balls as runs dried up to a trickle. From a promising 49-run opening stand they slumped to 58 for four in the 18th over, Barker bowling through and claiming two for 34.
Though Harry Came reached 33, his opening partner Luis Reece endured such an uproductive first ten overs that he doubled his score when finally walking out to belt Barker over mid-wicket for six. He and Shan Masood, for nought, went in four balls of Barker’s next over, however, before Tom Wood edged to slip and Came drove to cover.
Latterly, Alex Hughes, in his first 50-over appearance for exactly a year, partially regained momentum but fell for 31 in a final over from Jack Campbell that allowed only one run off the bat. In the late scramble, McKiernan became a second casualty of fine fielding from Currie, who ran him out for 17.
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