A new year brings new hopes and new possibilities and Hampshire are in serious need of them.
This is their fourth consecutive season in Division One, but all three years have been full of struggle – their continued survival has been no more than that.
But the tide could be turning on the south coast, with their two South African Kolpaks joined by the recruitment of a pair of South African internationals, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn.
Amla, in particular, should be a dangerous addition, with his 16,000 runs a threatening presence to any opponent during his stint until the end of June.
“I actually had very little to do with it,” Kyle Abbott said of Amla’s signing.
“[Director of Cricket] Giles White asked me if I could have a word with him and I asked him if he’d be interested in coming to play for us, he said ‘I am and I’ll get back to you’. That’s when his agent got hold of us.
“He’s going to be a great asset for us.”
On the field, his talent cannot be understated but off it, Amla – who only arrived in England on Tuesday morning – will provide heaps of knowledge for some of his younger teammates.
Abbott, who also played with Amla at South African side Dolphins, added: “He’s a great signing for us especially for our younger batsman, but I’ve learnt a lot from just bowling to him. So as a bowling unit we’re going to pick up an awful lot from him and he’s someone you really want on your side.”
James Vince, who was reappointed captain for all three formats following George Bailey’s departure, suggested that the club are yet to finalise plans for their Specsavers County Championship batting order, but he and new signing Sam Northeast will bat at three and four, respectively.
Vince had a troubled winter, failing to convert any of his three half-centuries as he missed just one of England’s seven Tests, and he’s relishing the opportunity to try and cement an international spot.
He said: “You always want more. I’ve done a lot of the hard work and definitely don’t feel out of my depth but I know that I need to kick on and make those scores into big ones.
“I was keen to get back and get straight into it and batting in different conditions. It might be tougher early on for batters but if you do make runs in those sort of situations they probably count for a bit more, so I’m looking forward to getting back out here, trying to push the boys up the ladder.
“I enjoy [captaincy], [I’m] looking forward to it and it’s great to have such a good squad to be able to pick from.”
After joining from Kent in February, Northeast made his England Lions debut in Antigua, but he isn’t getting carried away having averaged 13.5 in six innings.
Northeast said: “The most important thing now is to get runs for Hampshire, try and win games for Hampshire and learn as much as possible from these guys. Hopefully I can improve my game here. That’s why I made the move, to try and better myself as a cricketer.
“I’ve only been here a week but the guys have made me feel really welcome and we’ve got a really good squad. Looking forward to all of the competitions, I think we’ve got a really good chance to do something special in them.”
Vince, who has been in the club’s senior set-up since 2009, is similarly optimistic.
“At the start of each season we start with the belief that we can win the Championship and other trophies,” Vince said.
“But I think looking around at some of the players this year and some of the guys, Hashim and Dale who have joined us as well, I think it is without doubt the best squad we’ve had.”
Confidence is flowing at The Ageas Bowl and rightly so for a squad who have underperformed in the Championship since promotion in 2014 and who are without a white-ball trophy since 2012.
The campaign begins on Friday with last year’s Division Two champions Worcestershire the visitors. Vince knows his side cannot be complacent.
“The teams that go on and win the Championship have a good first month. So we’re focused on the first four games and getting ourselves up the top early.”