ARON Nijjar celebrated career-best bowling figures as Vitality Blast holders Essex Eagles thrashed Hampshire by 54 runs to keep their faint quarter-final dreams alive.

Spinner Nijjar ripped through a shaky Hampshire batting line-up with figures of 3-22, while Jack Plom celebrated his maiden professional wickets to take 2-18.

Tom Westley had earlier clubbed his first half-century of the year, with Dan Lawrence marooned on 49, as Essex reached 168 before Hampshire could only manage 114 for nine in response.

Needing 169 to win, Hampshire’s batting was a revolving door of wickets.

George Munsey attempted three reverse sweeps off Nijjar, with the third slapped to Sam Cook at third man, who took an outrageous catch high over his head.

Captain James Vince was adjudged to have tickled down leg side to fall for a golden duck, the fourth time he had departed first ball in T20s against Essex.

It also handed 21-year-old fast bowler Jack Plom his first wicket on his third format appearance.

Sam Northeast and Joe Weatherley attempted to rebuild wit ha stand of 16, before the former hammered straight to Matt Quinn at mid-on and Ian Holland was bowled by Sam Cook.

Nijjar then dismissed Weatherley and Lewis McManus in three balls – caught and bowled and knocked back by a long hop, respectively – leaving Hampshire on 38 for six.

James Fuller pulled a rare boundary, one of 14 in the innings, but was caught by Nijjar on the mid-wicket boundary.

Fast bowler Quinn bowled a maiden at Chris Wood in the 13th over, before Simon Harmer had the top scorer caught at cow corner for 18.

Ryan Stevenson swung away to cow corner but despite Mason Crane and Shaheen Shah Afridi remaining unbeaten, the Eagles recorded back-to-back Blast wins.

Having chosen to bat first, Essex used partnerships to their advantage throughout their innings on a pitch perfect for batting.

Cameron Delport and Tom Westley got them off to a solid start with 57 in the first seven overs, despite Pakistani fast bowler Afridi's three powerplay over going for just 11.

Delport had struck two sixes in his 31 but didn’t quite time a straight slog off Crane as Stevenson pulled off a diving catch at long-off.

Westley had struck Ian Holland for three off-side boundaries before using his feet to club Stevenson over mid-wicket and Crane through the covers as he reached a 35 ball half-century.

It was Essex’s red-ball captain’s maiden fifty of 2020, having only managed 236 runs in his previous 15 innings in all competitions.

He was dropped on 50 by Afridi at deep cover, but fell having added another single, when he nicked Stevenson behind to Lewis McManus – having put on 38 with Dan Lawrence.

Michael Pepper was yorked by Wood, but Lawrence and Ryan ten Doeschate ran hard to add an unbeaten 58 in the death overs.

Lawrence had thrashed an aggressive 81 against Sussex in his previous outing but was more circumspect with just one six and four boundaries in his 49 not out, while ten Doeschate contributed 29 off 20 deliveries.

The score was about par, but proven much too much for the sorry hosts – who have lost five matches in a row.