Hampshire find themselves looking back on an excellent campaign with a feeling of what might have been at the end of the 2022 county cricket season. A record-equalling 3rd T20 Blast title meant the trophy cabinet got a deserved addition but again the County Championship title eluded their grasp, despite nine victories in their first 12 red-ball games. An early season defeat at the hands of eventual champions Surrey left them with too much to do as the campaign drew to a close, and in their attempts to make up the ground, Hampshire lost their final two games to sides in the bottom half of the table. There was also disappointment in the Royal London One-Day Cup as Hampshire topped Group B, only to be thwarted in the semi-final by eventual winners Kent.
Despite the inevitable disappointment that comes with such near misses, Hampshire players and staff can reflect on what has been a superb season in which the tenacity and determination which has served them so well in recent times once again filtered through the club.
The bowling trio of Kyle Abbott, Mohammad Abbas and Keith Barker were relentless, taking a combined 161 wickets in the Championship, and you get the sense Hampshire need to deliver a title soon while they remain at the peak of their respective powers. James Fuller and Ian Holland offered excellent support as all-rounders while Liam Dawson was as reliable as ever with his left-arm spin.
The batting was steady if unspectacular with captain James Vince topping the charts once again. Holland had a difficult campaign while Felix Organ showed he has the potential to be a long-term opener for the county with several eye-catching innings in the second half of the season. New signing Ben Brown finished with the highest average in the side while Nick Gubbins and Dawson were reasonably consistent.
Hampshire have developed a knack of winning T20 games from unlikely positions and they perhaps gave the greatest example yet of this as they defended 152 against a strong Lancashire side in the final. Nathan Ellis was exceptional throughout the summer while the likes of Chris Wood, Fuller and Dawson showed all their combined experience and skill to contribute to the team’s success. Vince had a superb tournament including two centuries while Tom Prest showed further promise after a breakthrough campaign in 2021.
The Royal London cup also proved an unexpected success as Hampshire won seven of their eight group games to secure a home semi-final. They looked on course to reach their second limited overs final of the season, but the cricketing gods had other ideas as a Darren Stevens-inspired Kent ended their hopes with a narrow three-wicket victory. With a number of regular players missing due to Hundred commitments, several players took their opportunity to impress. Toby Albert became a meme in his own right for guiding Hampshire home on several occasions while Jack Campbell and John Turner both shone with the ball.
Vitality Blast: Winners
Leading run scorers
CC: James Vince, 839 runs @ 38.13
T20 Blast: James Vince, 678 runs @ 48.42
RLODC: Tom Prest, 402 runs @ 44.66
Leading wicket takers
LV=CC: Kyle Abbott, 58 wickets @ 19.98
T20 Blast: James Fuller, 23 wickets @ 19.08
RLODC: John Turner, 20 wickets @ 16.7
Player of the season
A difficult call after such a strong season. Vince and Fuller both had fantastic campaigns as they topped the runs and wickets columns respectively in the Blast, but it is hard to look past the immovable object that is Keith Barker. The sight of the tall left-armer running in in a variety of different coloured socks is the one that will stick in mind for many Hampshire supporters and his contribution with both bat and ball in the Championship does not deserve to go unrewarded.
Tom Prest certainly justified his reputation as our one to watch as he ended the season as Hampshire’s leading run-scorer in the RLODC, but it was another young batter that caught the eye in his debut season for the county. 20-year-old Toby Albert made his first T20 appearance in July and finished the season as Hampshire’s go-to man for tight chases in the 50-over format. The highlight was an unbeaten 84* against Derbyshire after Hampshire were reduced to 68-5 and fans will hope to see more of the talented youngster in 2023.
Could have done better
If there is any explanation as to why a Championship title has not arrived on the South Coast over the last couple of years, one would have to look at the batting and the lack of any standout campaigns from their key players. The likes of Vince, Gubbins and Dawson all had very respectable seasons, but no Hampshire batter averaged over 40. Surrey by contrast had 10 players achieving this feat. It is true that bowlers win you games, but Hampshire need their batters to step up more consistently next season if they are to narrow the gap.
Need to work on
As highlighted above the batting will be Hampshire’s main area of focus over the winter. The Championship side could do with one or two players capable of averaging above 40 over the season whilst you sense there is still a lack of firepower in the middle-orders of the white-ball sides, despite the addition of the big-hitting Ross Whiteley. Mason Crane will also be disappointed at his lack of red-ball opportunities over the campaign with Liam Dawson preferred as the primary spin option.
There has been little activity so far in terms of recruitment whilst other counties have made a number of announcements in terms of ins and outs. Benny Howell will re-join the club on a white-ball only deal next season and fans will hope that Abbas follows Abbott in signing for the club again in 2023.
So close to a perfect season although Hampshire’s ultimate disappointment in the Championship and RLODC show how difficult it is to achieve clean sweeps in elite sport. A splendid season nonetheless and they will be hoping for more silverware in 2023. 9/10