|Jimmy Adams and Dimitri Mascarenhas, with the CB40 Trophy|
Hampshire’s Cricket team certainly enjoyed a superbly successful 2012 summer, emerging victorious in both One-Day competitions and staying in the race for County Championship promotion until the very end of the season. To be County Champions in 2 of the 3 domestic competitions is a huge achievement and one of which all associated with the club should be immensely proud.
The season started in earnest way back at the start of April, with four back-to-back County Championship Division Two games, which resulted in one victory, two defeats and one draw. Hampshire would go on to accumulate 153 points in their 16 matches, finishing in fourth place, (just 41 short of Yorkshire who took the final promotion place, level on points with eventual Champions Derbyshire). It was a fantastic effort for Hampshire to maintain their promotion push until the very end of the season despite energy-sapping efforts in the One-Day competitions for the small squad.
However, things could have been much better than fourth place, as regular first-innings failings with the bat cost the chance of not only more victories, but also of vital bonus points. That is not to say, though, that the batsmen were poor throughout – inconsistency was perhaps the biggest problem. Captain Jimmy Adams, for example, was the top–scoring batsman in Division Two, with 987 runs at an average of 49.35 and with 3 centuries. Next on the list was overseas player and former Australia international Simon Katich, at joint 19th in the Division with 738 runs at 35.14 (including a top score of 196), which perhaps highlights the problem of inconsistency amongst the top order. They also boasted the highest wicket-taker in the Division in David Balcombe with a fantastic 59 wickets at an average of 26.93 runs per wicket and an outstanding best of 8 for 71 in an innings. But it was not the bowling that was the problem, as James Tomlinson also chipped in with 43 wickets too. With greater consistency in the batting department and a few less dropped catches, Hampshire have a fantastic chance of regaining their place in the top division at the second attempt next season.
|Winners of the t20 Trophy|
The Hampshire Royals began their Friends Life t20 group stage campaign at the start of June and, despite only earning one point (from a rain-abandoned game at Hove) from their first three games, a run of 5 victories on the bounce ensured that they qualified from the Southern Section of the competition in second place, just behind the Sussex Sharks. Overseas signing Glenn Maxwell certainly played a huge part in the qualification process after beginning the season in the Second XI, scoring a match-winning innings of 66 not out from only 32 balls against Kent at Canterbury (as well as taking 2-10 with the ball) and a blistering 60 not out from 24 balls just a week later against Essex at Chelmsford. With the ball, Twenty20 Captain Dimitri Mascarenhas got the innings off to a steady start consistently throughout the campaign (when fit) and took 15 wickets with a miserly economy rate of 6.50 runs per over.
The Royals certainly kept their fans on the edge of their seats during the t20 Quarter-Final against the Nottinghamshire Outlaws at Trent Bridge in late July, winning by 4 wickets off of the final ball of the match. With The Outlaws having set a challenging target of 179, The Royals got off to a terrible start, slumping to 38 for 2, before the usually sedate Neil McKenzie came to the crease and played a quite unbelievable innings (akin to the one he played in the 2010 Final to win the t20 Trophy on home soil), scoring 79 from 49 balls to take Hampshire to Finals Day for the third successive season.
The 2012 Finals Day was held at Cardiff’s Swalec Stadium on 25th August and turned out to be another dramatic day in the history of Hampshire County Cricket Club. They played in the second semi-final, where they were drawn against the Somerset Sabres side that they had marginally beaten in the 2010 Final. The Royals did magnificently well to restrict Somerset to 125 for 6 from their 20 overs, before knocking off the runs comfortably with an over to spare for the loss of only 4 wickets.
|Chris Wood during the dramatic final over of the T20|
Hampshire batted first after winning the toss in the Final against Yorkshire Carnegie, who boasted current and former internationals Phil Jaques, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, David Miller, Tim Bresnan and Ryan Sidebottom. The Royals battled their way to 150 for 6 in their 20 overs – a score which seemed around par for a wicket which was starting to offer a bit of turn for the spinners. And so it proved, as Yorkshire came within 10 runs of victory despite an awful start. The game appeared to be over at 87 for 5, after Dimi Mascarenhas (battling through a shoulder injury in order to play) had taken 2-20 in his 4 overs and Danny Briggs had removed dangerman Jonny Bairstow caught behind to a turning delivery. However, following a controversial decision from the Third Umpire to give South African David Miller not out to a low Neil McKenzie catch, Yorkshire began to fight back and Miller blitzed his way to an eventual 72 not out from 46 balls in a man of the match performance. Yorkshire had need of 98 from the last 9 overs when Miller began his assault on the Hampshire attack (and the supply of match balls, losing at least 3 in the River Taff) and by the time the 2012 competition reached its final over, Yorkshire required only 14 runs. 22 year old Chris Wood, though, had other ideas and miraculously managed to take 3 wickets for only 3 runs to spark wild celebrations amongst the Hampshire players and travelling supporters.
Yet again, the Hampshire Royals defied all the odds and expert predictions to emerge victorious in thrilling fashion. Despite injury setbacks and availability issues for overseas superstars Shahid Afridi (who didn’t manage to play a match at all) and Glenn Maxwell (who was unavailable for Finals Day due to international commitments with Australia), a unique mixture of emerging young talent and top-class experience worked a treat for the second time in three years, as The Royals’ dominance in Twenty20 Cricket continued.
They even managed to repeat the act in spectacular fashion in the traditional season finale at Lord’s in the Clydesdale Bank 40 Final. Having qualified from a tough Group B as clear winners, Hampshire progressed to an even tougher-looking Semi-Final with the Sussex Sharks at Hove. Despite a classy Luke Wright century for the hosts, Sussex were restricted to 219 for 8 from their 40 overs and after a stunning start from openers and competition top scorers Michael Carberry and James Vince, The Royals cantered to their target with 42 balls to spare and set up an exciting final with the Warwickshire Bears at The Home of Cricket.
Like the t20 Final, Hampshire batted first (although this time, not by choice) and amassed a respectable and defendable 244 for 5 from their 40 overs, with key contributions of 66 from Captain Jimmy Adams and 57 from Sean Ervine. Warwickshire’s chase started well, with England star Ian Bell looking to be in total control during his run-a-ball 81, but when he was dismissed late on, The Bears seemed to lose control. However, they needed only 7 runs from the final over and were clear favourites, especially when Neil Carter hit the penultimate delivery for 4 to bring the scores level. So, with the destination of the CB40 trophy to be decided by the final delivery of the 2012 English domestic season, Kabir Ali held his nerve to beat the bat and wicketkeeper Michael Bates did the rest to ensure that no runs were scored and Hampshire won by virtue of having lost fewer wickets in amassing their 244 runs. In a heart-stopping finish, The Royals had done it again – winning a major final in dramatic fashion at the very death!
What a season of success, then, for Hampshire! From a solid performance in the longer format of the game to an unbelievable one-day double triumph, Jimmy Adams and his side can be extremely proud of their efforts in a heroic season. Adams himself led by example in all formats and, as a local boy, will be as happy as anybody with the recent success that he and his teammates have enjoyed. The team has a fantastic balance to it as a whole too, with young guns in the shape of Danny Briggs, James Vince, Liam Dawson and Michael Bates complementing the more experienced pros in Adams, Simon Katich, Michael Carberry, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Neil McKenzie. The Royals progress now to the Champions League T20 this winter as England’s representatives and will be boosted by the return of overseas stars Shahid Afridi and Glenn Maxwell, despite Danny Briggs’ absence to get married.
The Royals achieved in 2012 what espncricinfo called “surely the most dramatic one-day double in county cricket’s history” and it’s hard to disagree. Can they do it again next summer? One thing is for sure – we’re guaranteed excitement because Hampshire always do things the hard way!
Read George Kimber-Sweatman's assessment of the opening of The Premier League season