Liam Dawson says Hampshire must quickly brush off the disappointment of letting slip their final chance to win silverware in 2016 and focus on repeating last year’s County Championship great escape.
The Ageas Bowl team came out on the wrong side of an enthralling 50-over contest with Somerset on Tuesday, a result that enabled Surrey to pip Hampshire to a Royal London One-Day Cup quarter-final spot.
With their T20 campaign also ended before the last-eight stage, all of the club’s energies will now be channelled into securing their Division One status in the longer form of the game.
“It’s obviously going to be very hard work, we all know that,’ said Dawson, when asked about his county’s Championship survival prospects.
“But we’re one win away (from pegging back Nottinghamshire and Surrey at the foot of the table) and we’ve got a game in hand. If we win a game we’re right back in it.
“Everybody in that changing room and throughout the whole club, we try our hardest. That’s all we can do. If that’s not good enough then so be it.”
Hampshire had kept their one-day cup hopes alive by beating Sussex and Glamorgan in their two previous outings.
But having seen their white-ball season prematurely ended by their five-run defeat by Somerset, Dawson admitted to an underlying feeling of frustration.
It was an emotion exacerbated by the fact the all-rounder came into the season determined that his county would shed their nearly-man tag, having come away empty handed from the past three T20 Finals Days.
“It’s hugely disappointing not to qualify for a quarter-final,” he added. “But the boys gave it their all on a tough wicket. We knew chasing 250 would be hard work.
“But we can’t win it now. We want to win trophies. We’re proud, we’re a big club and this year we’re not going to be able to win anything.”
While Hampshire’s campaign across the shorter formats yielded no tangible reward, the same might not be true for Dawson.
The 26-year-old, a surprise inclusion in England’s World T20 squad earlier this year, has used the confidence gained from his international call as inspiration to deliver a string of glistening displays in his county’s colours.
He struck a 68-ball hundred in Sunday’s win over Glamorgan and was a centurion in Hampshire’s four-day draw at Warwickshire last month.
With England due to begin a five-match one-day series against Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl on August 24, Dawson’s form, in coloured clothing in particular, will surely have caught the eyes of the national team selectors – who had the chance to watch the Swindon-born player first-hand when he turned out for England Lions in a recent tri-series tournament also featuring the Sri Lankan and Pakistani A sides.
He topped his county’s batting rankings in the One-Day Cup this term, his 359 runs being scored at an average of 71.8.
He also claimed eight wickets with his left-arm bowling in the tournament, to add to the 19 scalps he had to his name in the T20 Blast, a competition in which he scored his runs at 126.16 per hundred balls.
These are figures Dawson hopes will be sufficient to see him handed the chance to add to his one appearance for the Three Lions, a T20 game on his home ground against Sri Lanka in June, when his three wickets reduced the tourists from an ominous looking 58 for one inside seven overs to a more manageable 81 for four before the 11th over of their innings was up.
“I have had a good month,” said Dawson. “I’m hitting the ball well and bowling well, so personally it’s gone extremely well. But now I have to take that form into red ball cricket to help us stay in Division One.
“I’ve had a good (50 over) competition so I could potentially be in the frame for that (an England call). But England are playing some very good one-day cricket so it’s a hard side to get into.
“If I am selected for a squad I’ll be over the moon. If not, we’ve got six massive games left in the Championship to stay up.’
Another man of Hampshire with designs on cracking the international scene is Mason Crane. The young leg-spinner bowled with aggression and control belying his years against Somerset and was unfortunate to return figures which didn’t do justice to a beguiling display – albeit his two for 48 included the prized wicket of Mahela Jayawardene, snared just when the Sri Lankan great was threatening to take the game away from the home team.
And Dawson, who has assumed captaincy duties in the absence of Test batsman James Vince and the stricken Sean Ervine, was in no mood to downplay the excitement surrounding Crane’s potential.
He said: “He bowled brilliantly. He bowls very consistently for a leg-spinner who’s 19 years of age. And he does spin the ball.
“He’s an exceptional talent and the way he’s bowled in all formats of cricket this year is a breath of fresh air for the club and its supporters. He’s such an exciting talent and he will play for England, I think.”
Furthermore, Dawson is convinced his teenage team-mate has the mettle to cope with being on the receiving end of some lusty blows, an inevitable occurrence for anybody who pursues his particular art.
“He’s got something about him,’ said Dawson. “You need that as a young cricketer. He backs his skill 100 per cent. He doesn’t care who he’s up against or how the batsman is playing him.
“He always believes he’s good enough to get a wicket. For a 19-year-old to have that thick skin and believe he’s that good is a huge positive for him and is only going to help him succeed.”
On the immediate horizon for Dawson and Crane, however, is a four-day contest with Lancashire, the first of those crucial, concluding six fixtures.