Tomlinson puts Hampshire up as champions
Hampshire 357 (Vince 144, Ervine 107, Allenby 4-74) and 258 for 9 dec (Adams 91, Allenby 6-54) beat Glamorgan 172 (Wallace 51, Wood 4-42) and 152 (Donald 59, Tomlinson 6-48) by 291 runs
Hampshire won Division Two with an emphatic 291-run win. They return to Division One after three years away, with each of those years starting with them dubbed favourites. Finally, after a solid race, they have come through and secured their fifth trophy in five seasons.
Maybe it was a touch anti-climatic. There was promise of a nail-biting finish, with scores relayed from Chelmsford, to the away dressing room here at Cardiff and then out to the middle, as the sun died on the final day of the 2014 county season.
Instead, by 4pm on the third day, champagne corks littered the outfield closest to the pavilion, as two members of the Sophia Gardens ground staff hurled the match ball between themselves, having discovered it three pitches away from the match strip. That was all that remained of the last moment, when Imran Tahir bowled Kieran Bull, and fizz soaked celebrations that marked Hampshire's return to the top flight.
For a team that had not left the top two all season, this has been a tense run-in, brought about by the rejuvenation of Essex, who put together a run of six wins in seven. Hampshire responded with three wins in their final four, and that was that.
Jimmy Adams looked chuffed. Then again, he rarely looks anything but. An engaging, popular cricketer, regarded as one of county cricket's genuine good guys, the only sign that this was something special was the croak in his voice. Moments before, the Hampshire team song had been given its loudest rendition in two years. Just before they cleared their throats and bounced off the walls, those in the changing room agreed that the feeling was "strange".
"It is surreal," Adams said. "There were plenty of moments when we thought promotion wouldn't happen. You have nagging doubts, don't you?"
Serious ones, Adams admitted, when Hampshire were 53 for 5 on the first morning. "In the past, we might have faltered, but this year we've found ways of digging ourselves out of holes."
"I'd say some of the draws we've managed [eight in all - the most in the division] have helped us get promoted, especially in the times we've had to battle hard, like Worcestershire away and Kent last week."
"It's a different feeling winning a Championship title compared to winning a limited-overs one. You feel you've had to battle all summer to achieve this. It's different from those days at Lord's, but this is a great achievement."
Adams went on to praise the overall impact of individuals. In Dale Benkenstein, they have a coach who has been there and done it in domestic cricket cricket; a man they can turn to in every situation, good or bad, and receive the right guidance.
Adams, Will Smith and James Vince, who leads the country in Championship runs, all passed 1000 runs for the season, while Michael Carberry could have been a fourth - he finishes on 847 - if he was not limited to just 12 matches this year. Sean Ervine's two hundreds, in this game and against Kent, were two contrasting innings that very few others have the capacity to produce.
Kyle Abbott was as close to the perfect overseas signing; an international class bowler, with a good appreciation of English conditions and a good work ethic. Hampshire are keeping in constant contact with the seamer with a view to possibly securing him for the beginning of next season, such was the way in which he achieved his 36 wickets, at 20.33 apiece.
Matt Coles' 40 scalps after a difficult 2013 highlights, if not a complete change in professionalism, that he has a greater appreciation of his game. Much credit should also go to Chris Wood, who invigorated the bowling attack in the last four matches - his only Championship appearances of the season - with 15 wickets.
And then there is James Tomlinson, today's hero. A cult figure on the south coast, he was the last to return to the dressing room, as he indulged photo requests with nearly all those that made the trip up to Cardiff.
"Can I have a copy of one of these?" he asked, while holding the Division Two trophy, amid the click-clicking of cameras. After all but sealing victory with a high quality spell of quick swing bowling that saw him take the first six wickets in 7.1 overs, eventually finishing with a season's best 6 for 48, and the match ball was later rescued and returned to him.
"I can't put my finger on it," Tomlinson said, at a loss to explain how things had gone so very right. "Sometimes I think, 'what's it all about?' Sometimes I don't know, and today was an example of that."
"I've only bowled OK in the last few games. Did I see this coming? Absolutely not. I really charged in today and hit a length as hard as I could.
"I've played for a long time, but this is the absolute pinnacle for me. I've played a few of the Twenty20 stuff, but I've spent more time watching it from the sides. This is my Twenty20 Finals Day. It's a great memory."
Tragically, he announced that his victory beard, resplendent in the afternoon hue, with its ginger tinge, will be coming off. "It's been great and done well, but my wife absolutely hates it."
Going into today, Hampshire had noted that there was the threat of some rain on the final day. While minimal, they were keen to either exercise an early checkout from the Marriott, or a bonus night treading the sticky floors of Tiger Tiger and bumping shoulders with students on Freshers' Week. Jaeger bombs and new beginnings all round, barman.
The first hour was something of a mess. Not that anyone will care; Tomlinson's evisceration of Glamorgan's top six ensured this passage of play will be quickly forgotten. Maybe not by Jim Allenby, who passed 50 wickets in first-class cricket for the first time in his career. The five wickets he earned this morning will be among the easiest of his career.
Tomlinson was not asked to indulge in the nonsense, as Hampshire decided 258 for 9, with a lead of 443 runs, was a good time to call it quits. For the first 15 overs, it was all him.
With some sharp, late movement through the air, he flat-footed Will Bragg, Jacques Rudolph, Chris Cooke and David Lloyd and rapped their pads. The wicket of Lloyd was a particularly smart one. Tomlinson moving to around the wicket to the right hander, shaping the odd one away, before bring his length forward and getting one to cut into Lloyd, who looked like he had decided to leave before the ball had left the bowler's left hand.
A dip at all 10 was there, with the Hampshire fielders calling him "Rushy" as he came to the end of his spell - a nod to Durham's Chris Rushworth, who took nine in an innings against Northamptonshire last week. In the end, he came off after his 11th over, despite the protestation of his team-mates, who were egging him on. "To be honest, I was physically and emotionally knackered. I thought I had it in me, but in that last over I realised things should probably change."
Wood replaced him at the Cathedral Road End and pitched in with two wickets, before Tahir finished things off. In between, Aneurin Donald capped off his Championship debut with a maiden half century, full of attacking shots to deliveries on the up. With Glamorgan focusing more on youth in what looks like being a book-balancing few years ahead, expect to see more like Donald pushed to the fore. For a 17 year-old, he handled himself exceptionally well.
While there will be celebrations for the next few days, next week brings a series of review meetings. Adams admitted that he himself brings up the topic of his captaincy. He insists it is the way he likes to approach things - "just take each season as it comes" - and laughed at the notion of uproar if he were to step away after three years at the helm.
"Even when I took over the captaincy, I certainly didn't feel like it was a natural fit. I feel like I gave a finite amount of cricket left in me, and I think at some point I'd like to just concentrate on batting than on taking the armband."
It is an armband he wears well and, while he may feel it is a bit tight, he might not be allowed to take it off. Certainly, the Hampshire side under his stewardship are an impressive force and one that will go into Division One looking for more than just survival.