Adams, making his 100th T20 appearance for Hampshire, smashed his way to an unbeaten 55 from 25 balls – his milestone coming in just 22 deliveries.
The LV= County Championship captain missed Hampshire’s horror performance against Yorkshire in the longer format to attend the birth of his second child, Joshua, on Monday.
Hampshire have beaten Essex five out of the past seven meetings – with the other two games rained off – and looked likely to make it eight unbeaten against James Foster’s men from the early stages.
In overcast conditions, James Vince won the toss and elected to bat and modestly started to compile a total – the openers taking 12 balls before Michael Carberry clipped away the first boundary of the night.
But that started a flurry of runs as the opening pair of Carberry and Vince brought up a typically brisk 50-run stand from exactly seven overs.
Wickets were at a premium for the Essex attack, but the introduction of Adeel Malik – brother of Pakistan international Shoaib – found Carberry slashing into the deep to make the breakthrough.
Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate landed in the country at six this morning and only signed his registration documents on the team bus 35 minutes before the 5pm deadline after flying back from the Indian Premier League – but celebrated the wicket of Vince in the 12th over.
Adams struck the first six at the Ageas Bowl this season, before former Essex man Owais Shah followed suit with a humongous maximum over mid-on.
New father Adams continued his onslaught with an uppercut six as he bagged a 67-run partnership with Shah, before the latter was well caught on the fence.
Adams brought up his fifty with a single after five fours and two maximums to start this season as he ended last year, with a half-century.
Sean Ervine was excellently snaffled by a diving Greg Smith in the final over but Hampshire reached an impressive 173 for four in their allotted overs.
Essex’s reply started badly as Chris Wood bowled dangerman Jesse Ryder in the second over – splaying his stumps across the deck before wheeling away in delirious delight.
Fiery West Indian Fidel Edwards struck with his first ball for Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl with a speedy in-swinger – dismissing Nick Browne as the away side faltered.
Kishen Velani set about a mini-rival with a considered 21 from 18 but gave himself too much room to home debutant Yasir Arafat – another set of stumps demolished.
Greg Smith hit a 21-ball 30 before a clever change up to come around the wicket by his namesake Will sent him back to the dugout.
Wickets kept on falling as Foster and Callum Taylor, making his first senior appearance, both fell to spinner Danny Briggs.
Ten Doeschate quietly went about maintaining the contest with a fifty from 32 balls. The Netherlands man will travel back to India after Essex’s clash with Surrey tomorrow.
Graham Napier bludgeoned the biggest six of the night before Arafat got him next ball before Malik was foolishly run out without facing a ball.
Ten Doeschate created a nervous ending but was bowled in the final over as he finished on 68 but his side lost by 17 runs with three balls to spare.
Ten Doeschate said: “It’s a result industry and we didn’t get the result. We were a bit sloppy today. There is no excuse for hitting the ground slowly.
“It is the first day of a big competition and we are disappointed with what we put out there today.
“None of them set the lights going, it was a steady effort but if one of our lads batted well tonight we would have been in with a chance – 170 was gettable, it was a lovely wicket.”
Adams added: “It has been a tough start to the year, it is nice to start this competition on the right foot.
“We did a lot of things right tonight and everything went to plan. Everyone chipped in, I am delighted.
“The first half dozen balls I hit found the gaps and I was off to a flyer. It’s great to play with freedom and just hit the ball.”
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