There was a time when Hampshire had transformed into the crème de la crème in domestic white-ball competitions. In T20, particularly, their tactics were years ahead of the curve and they dominated the format in the early 2010s.
Even in List A cricket they had been formidable: four finals between 2005 and 2012 — winning the competition three times. But that limited overs dynasty no longer exists.
They approach Saturday’s Royal London One-Day Cup final against Kent with a new look. Just four players — Jimmy Adams, James Vince, Liam Dawson, Chris Wood — remain from their domestic double in 2012 and the side that has taken them to Lord’s is a different blend entirely from six years ago.
For all the criticisms sent their way for their pursuit of Kolpak signings, there are some talented youngsters developing on the south coast. The likes of Joe Weatherley, Tom Alsop, Brad Taylor and Mason Crane have all been influential in taking Hampshire to Lord’s.
But so too has Rilee Rossouw, as has the oft overlooked and near-universally underrated Gareth Berg. Overseas import Dale Steyn — who will feature in his last game of this month-long stint, although he is likely to return in late August — has looked fierce in his last two appearances.
This is a competition that, in spite of escaping the group with two defeats, they have been domineering. Both losses came down to the final ball, and were very easily avoidable.
Kent have one over on Hampshire thanks to a one-run win at The Ageas Bowl, in which they successfully defended six from the final two overs. That type of naivety at the death will not, you suspect, happen again.
And Somerset managed to chase Hampshire’s 356 in the final group game, thanks in no small part to as few as six dropped catches. The fielding looked much sharper just three days later with the red ball against Surrey, let alone come the Yorkshire semi-final a week later.
It will help that they beat Yorkshire — comfortably so — batting first. Only against Somerset had they previously defended a total this season and it would be reckless to be unprepared for any scenario come 10.30am on Saturday.
Some observers — though none from these parts — tipped Hampshire for silverware of some description before the season began, and this is an opportunity to pave the way for a return to white-ball royalty.
Or, at the very least, kickstart a season in which red-ball relegation doesn’t appear out of the question.
Player of the Tournament
It took him two games to get going but James Vince has led from the front in Hampshire’s campaign. A useful 66 in their third match helped them to a third victory and he has passed 50 on three occasions since, striking consecutive centuries first in the final group match and then a commanding 171 in the semi-final. He was rarely drawn into unnecessary drives in that innings — a fact that does his international aspirations no harm — and looked at ease. Vince will need to channel those performances into his batting in the final, because his record at Lord’s is woeful: only once has he scored more than 20 in eight innings for club and country.
Top run-scorer & wicket-taker
James Vince, 504 runs @ 63.00
Mason Crane, 14 wickets @ 27.42
Road to the Final
1st, South Group
Semi-final: Beat Yorkshire by 107 runs
James Vince: “It’s important that you get there and enjoy the day, you don’t get caught up in putting too much pressure on yourself and playing with fear. You’ve got to play exactly how we’ve done throughout the tournament so far and that gives us the best chance of winning it.”
View from the Stands
Ian from Hantsfanpodcast: “I’m quietly confident based on how we have played throughout the competition and the form of players like James Vince.
“It would be very satisfying to lift the trophy as Lord’s finals are still special to me. But I worry that we have already had one chance to knock Kent out and failed to do so.”
Brad Taylor (ankle) and Mason Crane (back) will both miss out through injury, leaving Liam Dawson as the sole spinner. Ollie Rayner has been on loan from Middlesex, but his remit doesn’t include the final. Kyle Abbott is fit again but having played no part in getting Hampshire to Lord’s, he will not feature there. Lewis McManus was dropped for the last two Specsavers County Championship matches but is expected to play, while Rilee Rossouw comes into the game off the back of his maiden Championship century — after being struck in the mouth in the semi-final.
Date: 30th June 2018
Umpires: Michael Gough, Graham Lloyd; Martin Saggers (3rd Umpire); Chris Watts (4th Umpire)
Odds (SkyBet): Hampshire 8/13