Harrison Ward struck a brutal half century to propel Sussex Sharks to a comfortable seven-wicket triumph over South Group rivals Gloucestershire in a one-sided Vitality Blast contest beneath the Seat Unique Stadium floodlights in Bristol.
The left-hander smashed 51 from 27 balls, with 5 sixes and 2 fours, and dominated a match-winning opening partnership of 83 with Tom Clark as Sharks chased down a victory target of 141 with 6.4 overs to spare.
Ari Karvelas had earlier put the skids under Gloucestershire with 4-20 in 3.2 overs, including three wickets in eight balls during the powerplay, while leg spinner Shadab Khan weighed in with 4-27 during the middle part of the innings as Gloucestershire were bowled out for 140 in 19.2 overs.
Grant Roelofsen top-scored with 41 for the hosts and Gloucestershire were indebted to Matt Taylor and Tom Smith, who added 31 for the last wicket.
A seventh defeat in 11 games signaled the end of Gloucestershire's quest for a place in the quarter-finals, while victory moved Sussex level on points with their opponents.
If Gloucestershire were relying upon the left handers in their top order to exploit a short boundary, they were quickly made to think again as Miles Hammond and Ben Charlesworth fell to consecutive Karvelas deliveries in the first over with the score on nine. Hammond top-edged a short-pitched ball to Shadab Khan at third man, while Charlesworth offered a meek return catch and departed without scoring.
Karvelas struck again in his next over from the Ashley Down Road End, inducing Ben Wells to slice to third man as the home side lurched to 15-3, leaving opener Grant Roelofsen and new batsman Ollie Price to recover a parlous situation the best they could. Understandably adverse to taking too many risks, the fourth wicket pair progressed the score to 43 by the end of the six-over powerplay, Roelofsen plundering a brace of boundaries off Henry Crocombe to afford the home side some much-needed momentum.
Visibly growing in confidence, Roelofsen greeted Shadab's leg breaks with a towering six over mid-wicket to equal his highest score in the competition for Gloucestershire, and then repeated the feat in the spinner's next over to pass 40 for the first time this season. Just when it looked as though a half century was his for the taking, the South African couldn't capitalise, cutting Shadab to backward point and departing for 41, having faced 27 balls, accrued 3 fours and 2 sixes and dominated a stand of 50 with Price.
It seemed no Gloucestershire batsman was able to convert a start into a big score and apply significant pressure, Price advancing to 19 before hoisting Shadab high to George Garton at cow corner as the hosts slipped to 78-5 in the eleventh.
Zafar Gohar then played and missed a straight one from Shadab, who had Tom Price held at wide mid-on five balls later to further reduce Gloucestershire to 93-7 at the end of the thirteenth. Graeme van Buuren edged a catch behind off Garton, David Payne was held in the deep off James Coles and it was left to Taylor and Smith to save face at the death.
If they were to have any hope of defending a paltry total, Gloucestershire desperately needed to take early wickets. But Ward and Clark were clearly reading from an altogether different script, these two managing to take full advantage of the short boundary in a whirlwind opening stand of 83 in 6.4 overs.
Ward took matters into his own hands in the fifth over, smashing three huge sixes off Taylor to bring the rate down to below a run a ball, while Clark drove Tom Price for a maximum of his own to propel Sharks to 78 without loss at the end of the powerplay and effectively take the game away from Gloucestershire. Clark also weighed in with a quartet of fours in a 19-ball knock of 27, which ended when he drove slow left armer Smith to Hammond at extra cover.
But there was no respite for the home side, Ward going to 50 via 25 balls as Sharks continued to make good progress. Smith removed the hard-hitting opener in the ninth over and Zafar bowled Oli Carter for 10 as spin made inroads, only for experienced captain Ravi Bopara (11 not out) and Shadab (28 not out) to see their side home in a no thrills unbroken stand of 36 for the fourth wicket.
Report provided by ECB Reporter's Network