Sam Northeast summed up his side’s 2020 season as one that “didn’t really happen, in some ways”. It was an honest admission from one of their seasoned batsmen, and a quick glance at their statistics would reveal just as much.
Collecting just four wins across the Bob Willis Trophy and the T20 Blast colours, it is a drab season to look back on. The batsmen struggled for rhythm, with many of their key players either out injured or missing in action for various reasons. However, heading into a full season fresh, Adrian Birrell’s men have plenty of reasons to be optimistic for.
They will, undoubtedly, be boosted by the return of Liam Dawson, who missed a major chunk of 2020 due to a ruptured Achilles. In him, Hampshire will be able to call on his all-round prowess that was sorely missed. Kyle Abbott and Pakistani-import Mohammad Abbas will be their main men, forming one of the most exciting new ball pairings across all counties.
Light on runs, the top five of Joe Weatherley, Ian Holland, James Vince, Sam Northeast and Tom Alsop have all have played instrumental knocks and hit daddy hundreds, but consistency remained elusive last year. Aneurin Donald has also shown promise but is yet to build on that.
More will be expected from a batting lineup replete with batsmen either at a crucial phase of their career or classed as very promising. Either way runs are the order across all formats.
If Hampshire find themselves in a better position than they were in last year, it will be a pleasant denouement for their supporters to witness.
Ins: Josh Croom (youth)
Outs: Harry Came, Oli Soames (both released), Fidel Edwards
969 Championship runs at 51.00 in 2019 earned a Lions call-up for the tour to Australia for Sam Northeast, the batsman widely touted as one of England’s best uncapped players. To then accumulate just 181 runs, across seven Bob Willis Trophy games, would be motivation enough for a batsman of Northeast’s class to redeem himself and propel Hampshire to the red-ball glory that has eluded them since 1973.
Player to watch
Earmarked as a promising young batsman since his debut in 2016, Joe Weatherley finally grasped the opportunity last year by finishing as Hampshire’s leading run-scorer, with 263 runs at 43.83. If Hampshire are to back up any fiery bowling spells, they would need runs to flow and in the 24-year-old, they have someone who can make others sit up and take notice.
Kyle Abbott is no stranger to the pastures of Solent. Having missed the truncated 2020 season due to COVID-enforced travel restrictions, the South African is set to be available for the entirety of this season and will be looking to emulate his feats from an excellent 2019 campaign where he took 72 wickets at 16.19.
Mohammad Abbas, the Pakistani seamer, will form a potent new-ball partnership with Abbott but is only available till end of May. Having his deal with Nottinghamshire canned in the wake of the pandemic last year, he brings considerable County Championship experience – in addition to his International exploits – which will be paramount to Hampshire’s push for glory against sides like Surrey, Middlesex and Somerset.
How will they fare?
There will be plenty of inspiration to draw from their third-place Division One finish in 2019. With the bowlers expected to pose plenty of problems, the onus is on the batsmen to deliver if they are to be genuine contenders for some silverware. The white-ball arena is where Hampshire will feel slightly more confident, having won the Royal London One-Day Cup in 2018. However, they are one of the sides with the fewest Blast wins since 2016 – a record they will want to set straight.
Thursday, 8th April vs Leicestershire at Grace Road, County Championship.
CC – 12/1
RLODC – 7/1
T20 Blast – 12/1