Craig Cachopa hit his best-ever T20 score and shared in Sussex’s second-best partnership of all time in the competition as Sussex staged a stunning fightback to beat in-form Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.
The seven-wicket win, which came with more than an over to spare, put the Sharks right back in the hunt to qualify from the south group for the last eight – they are one of four clubs in mid-table separated by just a point and battling for third or fourth place.
But such a result looked highly unlikely when Sussex slipped to 14 for three having lost their two batting big guns as they chased an admittedly-mediocre Hants total of 157.
Cachopa and Machan gave few signs of the boundaries to come as they kept the scoreboard ticking over slowly but surely in their early overs together.
But halfway through the innings, 31 off two overs – including three sixes – changed the feel of the game and put the Hampshire fielders under pressure, giving the pair the platform to go on and score at more than ten an over as they got their team over the line.
Cachopa finished on 89 not out from 54 balls, including four sixes and seven fours, and said afterwards: “I really enjoyed myself. Me and Mach are really good friends so it was nice to be out there with someone I get on really well with.
“Mach showed the experience he got from the World Cup with Scotland. He stayed calm out there and helped me by ticking over. We decided that we were going to lose so we should have some fun and we did that and it came off today.
“It was a big game for us and we wanted to get on a roll with a couple more big games coming up. We thought it was a below par score but after our start it was even-stevens but we are thrilled with the win.”
Machan was no bit-part player in the partnership, ending with 52 off 45 balls - that after taking his first T20 wicket for Sussex to dismiss Jimmy Adams as the Royals innings stuttered.
Hampshire had a steady-enough start but no-one reached 50 for the hosts, who had won five of their first seven group games. James Vince with 41 was their top scorer but the Sussex bowlers and fielders deserve credit for sticking to the task and never letting any home batsman go to town.
Mike Yardy returned the best figures of one for 26 but no bowler conceded more than Ollie Robinson who saw 37 scored off his bowling - though he compensated for that with two wickets.
It looked a slightly below-par score but when Luke Wright and Denagamage Jayawardene both fell in the second over, bowled by Chris Wood, and then Ben Brown followed with only 14 Sussex runs on the board, it looked like a fourth defeat in seven would follow for Wright’s team.
The skipper was unlucky to go - he fell to a breathtaking leaping catch by Will Smith which some present said was one of the best takes ever seen at the ground.
But his dismay at his own early dismissal would have evaporated at Cachopa and Machan gradually got themselves in and then picked up the pace by attacking Danny Briggs, normally so tight in this form of the game but on this occasion going for 40 in his four overs, and the rest of the bowlers in turn.
Next up for Sussex is a visit to Cardiff to face Glamorgan on Sunday. A win there would take the Sharks above the Welsh county and give them further hope of qualification for the last eight.
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