Dale Benkenstein was full of praise for Darren Sammy and Shahid Afridi after Hampshire’s superstar overseas duo shared five wickets to propel their side to a nine run T20 Blast victory over Kent at the Ageas Bowl on Thursday.
Hampshire First Team coach Benkenstein admitted he had feared his team’s total of 158, based around opener Michael Carberry’s measured 54 and compiled after they were inserted by visiting captain Sam Northeast, was short of what was required against Kent’s powerful batting line-up.
And when Daniel Bell-Drummond and Joe Denly combined in a first wicket stand of 75 for the Spitfires, the South African’s concerns seemed well founded – only for Denly’s dismissal for 31 to trigger a remarkable Kent collapse.
“We have had a few overseas players who haven’t done much for us,” said Benkenstein. “But these guys [Sammy and Afridi] have really shown their passion, their quality, their will to win.
“They’re fiercely competitive, they want to win. That’s why they’ve got to the top. That attitude rubs off on everyone else in their teams and that’s why their teams have been successful.
“It’s great to have them and I hope our younger players can learn from them and take a lot of confidence from them. Today has proven what great signings those two guys are.”
Benkenstein was also keen to highlight the contribution of former England batsman Carberry, who was caught in the deep in the 18th over of his side’s innings, having carefully accumulated his 54 from 53 deliveries.
“I thought we were probably 10 or 15 runs short,” said the former Durham skipper. “We picked it up well towards the end of the innings. But you’ve got to back your batters’ assessment of the wicket and Carbs is an experienced player.
“He felt it was pretty tough and as the ball got older it was hard to score, so new batters coming in would find it harder than him.
“His stabilising the innings at least gave us a defendable target. But I really enjoyed the way we fought in the field. It looked like they had it in the bag, but we really hung in there. A couple of wickets and the next minute it turned our way.”
While Benkenstein also emphasised the value of having captain James Vince back in the ranks, following the batsman’s recent introduction to Test cricket in England’s ongoing series against Sri Lanka, the coach was in no mood to downplay the importance of this victory to his troops.
After emerging on top from a compelling four-day contest with Nottinghamshire last week, Hampshire were rocked by a one-sided defeat at Middlesex in their T20 season opener, and a subsequent drubbing at the hands of the same opposition in this week’s Specsavers County Championship fixture.
“Our first T20 game wasn’t great, but this has given me a lot more confidence,” said Benkenstein. “And after the last four-day game we really needed this win. It was very important. T20 can be ruthless at times.
“If you get on the wrong end of games you can end up losing a few in a row. It was vital to rediscover some confidence and get our pattern right ready to play some good cricket in the next couple of weeks.”
Hampshire have the opportunity to chalk up a second victory in two days when they travel to Cardiff to take on Glamorgan on Friday evening (6:30pm).
And Benkenstein believes this triumph against the odds will lend his side valuable momentum for their trip to South Wales.
He said: “The circus has started. We’re on the bus in the morning again. It’s fantastic when you get on a good roll and you’re confident. It can be terrifying when you’re on the other side of it, so we’re hoping to go and put another win on the board.
“There are some fantastic sides in this group and you can’t win them all, but I liked the way we played. If we continue like that we’re going to be more successful than not.”