ESSEX suffered a seven-wicket defeat in the first leg of their Twenty20 Floodlit Challenge against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl last night in front of a sparse crowd who braved a chilly evening.

The visitors, who won the toss, were in dire straits early on slumping to 25-4 inside five overs until Ryan ten Doeschate gave the innings some substance with an unbeaten 70.

But only two other of his Eagles colleagues managed to reach double figures.

The all-rounder played with typical gusto and faced 54 deliveries during his innings, striking two sixes and five other boundaries.

And the value of his knock was illustrated by the fact that only Varun Chopra managed to reach the boundary ropes.

It was 18-year-old wicket-keeper Adam Wheater who offered the significant support to ten Doeschate, contributing 17 not out in a seventh wicket stand worth 66 as Essex closed on 130-6. The target always proved within the comfortable grasp of the home side despite the early loss of Michael Lumb who was bowled by Tony Palladino to the fourth ball of the innings.

But Jimmy Adams and Michael Carberry put on 61 in 10 overs before Adams was caught by ten Doeschate off the bowling of Mervyn Westfield for 39.

James Middlebrook soon removed Chris Benham for three but Carberry dominated matters and finished on 58 not out from 51 balls.

That tally included his sixth boundary when he steered Westfield to the boundary at deep backward square leg to complete the win with nine balls to spare.

The match that saw both teams figure in a historic event when pink cricket balls were used for the first time in a competitive match involving English county sides.

An option to white balls in one-day cricket is being sought as they can become discoloured by the grass and are difficult for fielders and batsmen to see in certain light conditions.

Essex Coach Paul Grayson was happy to be involved in what could be another new initiative for the game.

“The game gives us an opportunity to trial the pink ball under competitive conditions and we are happy to be involved in this experiment,” he said.

“The one-day game seems to be evolving all the time and we are all open to change and variation in the game.

“We’ll know a bit more about the viability of them after tonight and once we’ve got a bit of feedback from the players.”

Essex and Hampshire will again use pink balls in the second leg at County Ground on Friday night (7pm start).

Scoreboard Essex 130-6 wickets from 20 overs (ten Doeschate 70 not out, Wheater 17 not out, Chopra 10, Mickleburgh 7, Middlebrook 5, Napier 4, Pettini 3, Westley 0, Balcombe 2-25) Hampshire 131-3 wicket from 18.3 overs (Carberry 58 not out, Adams 39, Dawson 23 not out, Middlebrook 1-28 Palladino 1-30, Westfield 1-34, Napier 0-17, Ahmed 0-22) Meanwhile it is understood that the county are waiting for all-rounder Grant Flower to make his decision concerning a new contract.

The 37-year-old, who was the man of the match in the Friends Provident Final win, has been offered a new deal although it is rumoured that Sussex are interested in recruiting the Zimbabwe-born player in a role that would include coaching duties.