County previews 2014

Hampshire need to lift Championship game

George Dobell

March 25, 2014

Comments: 4 | Text size: A | A

James Vince flicks to the leg side during his 69, WA XI v EPP, Tour match, Perth, 3rd day, December 12, 2013
Hampshire will hope to see further advances from James Vince in 2014 © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Kyle Abbott | James Vince
Teams: Hampshire
Grounds: The Rose Bowl

Last year

4th, CC Div 2; Lost in semi-final, FLt20; Lost in semi-final, YB40.

2013 in a nutshell

After winning four trophies in four years, for Hampshire to end a season empty-handed was something of a disappointment. Their limited-overs cricket remained impressive, however. No team lost fewer games in the FLt20 - their semi-final defeat was only their second loss in the campaign with Michael Carberry, with four 50s and a hundred, prolific throughout - and they also finished top of their YB40 group, only to lose to Glamorgan at the semifinal stage. Again Carberry was prolific, with Jimmy Adams also enjoying an excellent competition.

Only in the Championship was their form disappointing. While the batting remained reliable, with both Liam Dawson and James Vince passing 1,000 runs, the bowling lacked bite and was overly reliant on James Tomlinson. On pitches offering them little, the seamers David Balcombe and Chris Wood endured a tough season, while Danny Briggs' spin continued to look more suited to limited-overs cricket. He was the most economical of any bowler to deliver more than 40 overs in the FLt20, but his strike-rate in the championship left Hampshire looking toothless at times. For a club of Hampshire's ambition and resources to finish mid-table in the second division and spend another season fighting for promotion will sting.

2014 prospects

While a couple of prominent senior players - Dimitri Mascarenhas and Neil McKenzie - have departed and will be missed, Hampshire have underlined their ambition by strengthening in the off-season. Matt Coles, who has joined from Kent, and Kyle Abbott, a South African quick who is the primary overseas player, should add some bite with the ball, while Will Smith, who has arrived from Durham, will add some experience with the bat. Glenn Maxwell will join them for the T20 Blast.

With Carberry unlikely to retain a place in the Test side, it may well prove that Hampshire are largely unsettled by England call-ups and will enjoy the benefit of a settled line-up. The spin bowling still looks one potential area of concern, but with an experienced opening pair anything less than promotion will be a disappointment and there is no reason why they should not continue to push for limited-overs success.

The challenge off the pitch remains just as important. The building of a hotel - which will also contain the new media facilities - has run into yet more trouble and, at the time of writing, there remains doubt whether it will be ready for the Test against India.

Key player

A great deal is expected of Kyle Abbott. The 26-year-old South African seamer has signed for most of the season with the hope that he will add potency to the bowling attack. He may well: he has an exceptional first-class record and something of a point to prove having earned his way to the fringes of the national side. But he has never experienced anything like the volume of cricket he will face in England and, at some stage, could be recalled by Cricket South Africa with a view to managing his workload.

Bright young thing

James Vince is fast developing into one of the most exciting prospects in the English game. As the national side looks to rebuild, he could well find himself involved in any of the formats, though it was his first-class batting that excelled in 2013. He not only scored heavily - passing 1,000 Championship runs for the first time - but scored at such a rate - 64.16 runs per 100 balls in the Championship - that his side were given more time to bowl out the opposition. He is not the finished article and may have to curb some of the looseness if he is to prosper at the highest level, but, at 23, Vince has the class and the range of stroke to suggest he could be a valuable player for Hampshire and England for much of the next decade.

Captain/coach

Dale Benkenstein has joined the club from Durham, where he did a fine job, as first team coach. Giles White remains as director of cricket role and will oversee cricket at all levels throughout the club. Jimmy Adams continues as captain, with Vince promoted to vice-captain.

ESPNcricinfo verdict

Hampshire are strong promotion candidates and contenders in both limited-overs competitions. But doubts remain about the depth of the bowling attack - particularly the spin bowling attack - which could remain an issue in the Championship.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by HandM on (March 30, 2014, 21:41 GMT)

Cant agree with you about Carbs not keeping his England place. Top scorer on the Aussie tour and just second to KP in runs scored in the Tests....and that was opening the batting/new ball/ basically debut test matches/Ashes pressure/down under! Deserves evey chance to continue opening this summer. Dont talk about age either....look at Chris Rodgers! Also, as you say George....fantastic form in the limited over games last year....so dont get me started on why Carbs wasnt given a chance in the 50 over side or even picked for the T20 series by the King of Spain.

Posted by Hammond7249 on (March 30, 2014, 14:29 GMT)

I disagree with the above comment about Liam Dawson. He was superb with both bat and ball last season after looking to have come off the boil in 2012. His contributions should not be overlooked.

Posted by pragmatist on (March 27, 2014, 11:26 GMT)

At last Hampshire seem to be picking up some new players. Coles made a good impression while on loan last year, and Brathwaite could be a useful addition. Can't help feeling that they will still lack that cutting edge in the Championship - a county like Hampshire needs to get out of Division 2 as their top priority. For all the 40 over and T20 success, that's how the club is judged ultimately.

Posted by CodandChips on (March 26, 2014, 22:14 GMT)

Good article. Agree with most of it.

McKenzie and Dimi will be missed.

I have an issue with all the signings made at the expense of our own young players. Most of them are rejects from other counties: eg Wheater, Gatting, Brathwaite. But something does need to be done to change our championship game so maybe this is the answer.

The spin issue is interesting. Briggs and Dawson have not become the players they could/should have been. Brad Taylor looks an interesting prospect though. We have suffered though because the ECB kept docking points for spin friendly pitches, so now the pitch has been transformed to a road. Hence part of the bowling issue.

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