Hampshire can add to one-day glory
Last year: 4th, CC Div 2; Winners, FLt20; Winners, CB40.
2012 in a nutshell: Excellent in limited-overs cricket and mediocre in the Championship. Hampshire won the limited-overs double in 2012 and, with three games to play in the Championship season, were in a promotion position. They lost all three (against Leicestershire, Essex and Derbyshire) and slipped into mid-table. They topped their CB40 group with seven wins from 10 completed matches and then defeated Sussex and, in the final, Warwickshire off the last ball to lift the trophy. In the T20 they reached finals day in Cardiff, beating Somerset in a low-scoring semi-final and outwitting Yorkshire in the final. Glenn Maxwell proved an astute signing, with slow bowlers Liam Dawson and Danny Briggs maintaining excellent control and Dimitri Mascarenhas providing a reminder of his excellence as a T20 cricketer.
2013 prospects: Hampshire should continue to challenge in the shorter formats and must be considered one of the promotion favourites. Their top-order batting, containing Jimmy Adams, Michael Carberry, overseas player George Bailey and, from June, Neil McKenzie, is as strong as any in Division Two. Adam Wheater, Sean Ervine and James Vince will add impetus while Liam Dawson will be asked to bat long and slow. The bowling is, at first glance, slightly less impressive but, led by David Balcombe, strong as a bull and determined to make up for lost time in his career, and the left-arm swing of James Tomlinson, it will also be augmented by the spin of Saeed Ajaml for the last few weeks of the season. Having won four limited-overs trophies in the last four years, they clearly have a decent formula and there is little reason why that should change .
Key player: Signing Adam Wheater as a wicketkeeper batsman was somewhat controversial. Not only did Wheater have a year of his contract to run at Essex, but his arrival threatens the position of Michael Bates, a homegrown Hampshire keeper who has made such a fine impression with the gloves. But Wheater, at 23, only eight months older than Bates, is a vastly superior batsman - he averages 20 more an innings - and will add depth to Hampshire's batting line-up.
Bright young thing: Such is James Vince's talent that the England selectors ignored his largely unsuccessful season in Division Two last year - he averaged 24.52 and only passed 50 once - and took him on the Lions' one-day tour to Australia. He struggled there but, at 22, remains a talented and unusually elegant young batsman, capable of scoring freely against decent bowling. His strength, at present, remains in the limited-overs formats - he averaged 55.50 in the CB40 and was Hampshire's leading run-scorer in the FLt20 - but if he can curb his attacking instincts just a little, he can flourish in all formats.
Captain / coach: Jimmy Adams will continue to lead the side in a positive, cheerful manner, leaving Giles White, the head coach, to continue in unobtrusive style. The days when Hampshire could rely upon being bankrolled by Rod Bransgrove are gone - it didn't really work, anyway - leaving the club more reliant on player development. They seem stronger for it.
ESPNcricinfo verdict: Hampshire look capable of winning promotion this year. The batting is unusually strong and the acquisition of Saeed Ajmal on late-season pitches is a major scoop. The one concern is the pre-Ajmal bowling attack which, with the heavy roller back in operation this year, may face some long days in the field. It won't be easy to follow up a double-winning season, but Hampshire should continue to be a threat in the shorter formats.
Read our supporters' network preview on Hampshire. ESPNcricinfo will be publishing a fan blog for each of the 18 counties as we build up to the 2013 season
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo