The most successful Twenty20 county in the current decade will be looking to become the most successful side in English T20 history as Hampshire make the familiar trip to Edgbaston for Finals Day on Saturday.
The journey to the Midlands marks Hampshire’s sixth successive appearance in the last four, and having won the competition in 2010 and 2012, the Ageas Bowl outfit will be eyeing up a third title to match Leicestershire’s tally of competition wins since its inception 12 years ago.
James Vince and co. were a long way from their fluid best in the group stages, suffering six defeats in the South Group, but it was still enough for Hampshire to claim third place and a visit to the Worcestershire Rapids in the last eight. Rain and bad light intervened at New Road, but the visitors prevailed with Duckworth/Lewis on their side to get to Edgbaston as the last South Group team standing.
Despite their lack of consistency in this campaign, Hampshire continue to boast a plethora of match-winners in the format, with plenty of those key to the success three years ago still among the Ageas Bowl ranks. The likes of captain Vince and Michael Carberry – both in the top ten Blast run-scorers list this term – will therefore be integral in any success.
Their semi-final opponents, the Lancashire Lightning, proved the stumbling block for Hampshire at the same stage 12 months ago, with the Lightning prevailing by 41 runs at Edgbaston only to be defeated by the Birmingham Bears in the final – a string of results the two-time champions will be desperate to avoid a repeat of.
As has been in recent years, the Blast looks set to be the sole source of success for Hampshire, already knocked out of the Royal London One-Day Cup and struggling at the base of the County Championship’s upper tier, but they can put the disappointment of RLODC elimination behind them to be a force to reckon with on county cricket’s showpiece day.
Jimmy Adams reflected on the importance of this, speaking to the ECB after Hampshire went out in the quarter-final stage of the 50-over game: “We’ve got to get past the first hurdle,” said the 34 year-old.
“We’ve got plenty of players in form in this competition, but as always it will come down to hitting your straps on the day. You can’t afford to have a slow start, but the guys are used to the pressure of the day so we’ve just got to go two better than previous years at Edgbaston.”
Strengths and Weaknesses
As mentioned, Hampshire have been able to keep a solid unit in the batting department, with Carberry, Vince and Adams forming a top three strong enough to compete with any county in the competition. Wicketkeeper Adam Wheater has also used his place in the top four to good effect, averaging over 30 in the tournament to date.
On the other end of the spectrum, the bowling has not been quite so consistent. Despite Danny Briggs, Yasir Arafat and Chris Wood all breaching the 15-wicket barrier so far, Hampshire are yet to have a bowler completely take the competition by the scruff of the neck, with every Ageas Bowl bowler yielding economies worse that seven, with Wood and Arafat closer to nine runs per over. The trio do, however, hold plenty of experience which could prove vital as Hampshire embark on their sixth successive year as part of the last four.
They’ll also have to quickly adjust to cricket away from the Ageas, with an obvious need to take their impressive home form on the road.
As both captain and star batsman, James Vince is most certainly the man to watch for Hampshire on their quest for a third title. The now-England international has only played against Lancashire twice in Twenty20 cricket, with one half-century to go alongside his single-figure score in last year’s Finals Day. Vince is in good form in the format though, making a superb 107* against Worcestershire in the quarter-final stage.
Previous Finals Day Appearances
Where to begin? As stated, this is Hampshire’s sixth appearance at Finals Day in as many years, having previously not reached the last four in the first seven editions of the competition. Their first appearance in 2010 ended in a dramatic victory over Somerset, earning the title by the virtue of conceding less wickets against Somerset in the final, before defeating Yorkshire in the 2012 edition to gain their second title.
Other Finals Day appearances have proved less than profitable, losing at the semi-final stage each time, suffering a revenge defeat to Somerset in 2011 courtesy of a super over, and losing to Surrey and Lancashire in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Road to Finals Day
3rd in South Group: P14 W8 L6 T0 NR0 Pts 16 NRR -0.120
Quarter-Final: Hampshire 196/4 (Vince 107*) beat Worcestershire Rapids 58/2 by 17 runs (D/L Method), at New Road
Michael Carberry, James Vince (c), Adam Wheater, Owais Shah, Liam Dawson, Joe Gatting, Jimmy Adams, Sean Ervine, Will Smith, Gareth Berg, Chris Wood, Yasir Arafat, Danny Briggs, Mason Crane, Fidel Edwards.
To beat Lancashire: 4/5
To win the tournament: 5/2
Total runs: 2512
Total wickets: 90
Most runs: James Vince 641
Most wickets: Chris Wood 18