Lord’s will bring the best out of us, says Hampshire’s Alsop

Lord’s will bring the best out of us, says Hampshire’s Alsop

 

Lord’s, September 2012: the site of Hampshire’s white-ball trophy, a victory over Warwickshire by way of losing fewer wickets that you expect would have transfixed everyone associated with the club.

Not Tom Alsop.

“I don’t think I was even watching it, to be honest,” the Hampshire batsman, who was 16 and part of the club’s academy at the time, says with a laugh. “[But] the lads always talk about it, there’s pictures around the ground of Jimmy Adams’s catch, ‘Batesy’ [Michael Bates] — the replay of him taking that yorker at the end.”

On Saturday, Hampshire return to the home of cricket for the Royal London One-Day Cup final against Kent. This time, Alsop will not only be watching but he will be front and centre, walking onto the hallowed turf shoulder to shoulder with his teammates, some of whom played in the final six years ago.

“Some of the dressing room were obviously there and at the start of the campaign they said the people that were there know how special it is.

“It’s a magnificent place to play cricket, no matter what format, what event, and I think it only adds to the occasion. Knowing how the guys are it will just add and get the best out of them.”

This will be his first final with the club, having been defeated in the semi-final of last year’s T20 Blast. It won’t be his first trip to Lord’s, though, with an appearance for the English Schools Cricket Association against MCC Schools in 2012 and a T20 against Middlesex last year.

Alsop has a number of appearances for England at U19 and Lions level, too, meaning he’s used to some high-profile scrutiny.

“I think individually the 19s and Lions is a reflection on how well you’ve done as an individual which is quite nice, however this Lord’s final is a contribution from the whole group, a collective effort to get there. I’ve only played half the games, a few people have played all the games, so there’s a real collective effort from the guys.”

Having not kept wicket at all in 2016, Alsop took the gloves for a handful of games at the end of last season and worked with former Hampshire gloveman Bates this past winter, as did fellow wicketkeeper Lewis McManus. Alsop was given the gloves in the club’s last two Specsavers County Championship matches.

“I’ve been really fortunate to work with him this whole winter and he’s in during the summer as well. He’s changed the way I look at keeping. I started really enjoying it, I’m starting to work on different parts of my keeping: standing up, standing back, it’s just really nice and refreshing.”

Speaking a week before the final, does he think he’ll keep at Lord’s? “I wouldn’t have a clue what’s going on with the final,” he acknowledges. “I’m just trying to concentrate on the Championship games and we’ll see.”

Hampshire’s preparation for the final has been far from ideal. The two limited overs blocks introduced last season were, at least in part, designed to prevent players switching between the two formats and four-day cricket in a short space of time.

Yet, as both Hampshire and Kent have discovered, the trade-off for success in either limited overs game sees a return to that problem.

Kent’s schedule, admittedly, is the least arduous: a Championship trip to Gloucester, a pair of One-Day Cup knockout games, then Championship matches with the red ball at Tunbridge Wells and pink ball at Cheltenham, before Saturday’s final.

Hampshire, meanwhile, went from last Monday’s semi-final against Yorkshire to a day/night Championship match against them from Wednesday to Saturday — both at The Ageas Bowl — before hotfooting it to Old Trafford to play Lancashire a day and a half later. From the outside, the schedule hardly seems fair, but Alsop doesn’t appear too bothered by it.

“As a batter, in a weird way it’s quite nice, you’ve got a bit more time, you can leave a ball [in the Championship],” he says. “It’s different for everyone. For me, it’s not too bad. I think the way I play and the way I look at the game, I try and keep it very similar throughout all three formats, upping the tempo in the white-ball formats.

“Some other lads have got a bit of a break, which is quite nice. Some of the key bowlers have got a nice break to charge the batteries and come raring in for the final.”

He makes a valid point: Chris Wood, who has been so influential in Hampshire’s past white-ball trophies, has played neither Championship match while overseas signing Dale Steyn was rested at Lancashire. The South African will play his final game of this spell on Saturday, although he’s expected to return later in the season.

“I probably only hit about four balls the whole net,” Alsop says of facing Steyn. “He’s a world class bowler and credit to him really, he’s come into the group, he’s been fantastic with everyone.”

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