Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Like a bad smell

When Hampshire announced the rather hurried signing of Daniel Christian, one of the key lines was that he would be available for the quarter finals and Finals Day. Now, given that the news that there would be no Afridi, no Mendis, no Lee and Razzaq would be missing for a large portion of the 20/20 was still fresh in the mind, I could hardly hold off a defeatist, pessimistic laugh. The thing is the joke's on me and probably every Hampshire supporter, media types and cricket lover. Probably on the Hampshire players and Christian himself, too. As it turns out, the light hearted, "and finally" news story is that Hampshire are the first team to reach Finals Day at The Rose Bowl and my goodness we're on a bit of a role. A quite lethal mix of old timers, settled squad members and exciting youngsters has resulted in a team that very clearly plays for each other above anyone else. There are no egos (well, Corky has a healthy opinion of himself but he would play in a dress if it helped the team in some bizarre way to win). Razzaq has won games for Pakistan for years, but he has at no point cut an 'I'm above you' figure, McKenzie likewise, what with is record breaking test partnership etc. Perhaps the presence of youth has played a part in these senior players integrating so well into the side. Rather than turning out with a bunch of similar age and level players to collect a pay cheque and it's a bonus if they win, these players are looking at some of their team mates and seeing what they were 10, 15, 20 years ago. That naivety of youth, the innocent confidence and excited celebrations at yet another piece of cricketing excellence. Maybe that brings out a small amount of protectiveness in the seniors, wanting to do it not just for themselves but for these players with long futures ahead of them.

But for all of the sentimentality, team spirit and player integration, what mattered at the end of the day was putting in a performance that said goodbye to the tumultuous group stages and stated that Hampshire deserved to be in front of their home crowd on August 14th at Finals Day. After this showing against Warwickshire, I think that we are fully justified to be in the last 4. Again, similar to the Kent CB40 it wasn't a fantastic allround performance to match the Sussex game, but the job was done almost to perfection, with the eventual scorecard perhaps flattering Warwickshire somewhat. Cork won the toss and put Warwickshire in on a wicket that looked quite a bit different to the one on which Hampshire had scored 340 from 40 overs on a few months previously. The decision appeared an inspired one as a fine inswinger by Cork himself completely undid the defenses of the dangerous Carter and Warwickshire were 2-1. This was a real prize as Carter had been in excellent form with the bat, striking 100 the day before in the CB40, as well as topping Warwickshire's CC averages. Warwickshire fans often wonder why teams don't bring a spinner on straight away for Carter, as it is widely regarded as the easiest method of dismissing him. However it was good to see Cork stick to a plan and use the overcast and slightly humid conditions to great effect. Warwickshire went on their way though, Maddy showing why he used to be recognised as the best 20/20 player in the world, and Keith Barker playing some horrendous slogs as the pinch hitter at three. Ervine was given an over early on, but he seriously copped some as his one over went for 16, both Maddy and Barker, with his MVJ-esque stance, finding the boundary. In all truthfulness Ervine did not look match fit.

Briggs was brought on and did for Barker, Barker making room to thump the ball into the off side, but he was unable to bring his bat down on a quicker yorker length delivery from Briggs, the wicket his 25th dismissal in the competition. Maddy continued on his way though, striking Christian into the stands as well as scoring off of Wood, Bates again stood up to the stumps for the left armer. A six off Briggs by Maddy was then followed by a steepling chance, which Vince held comfortably and the brilliant Maddy was gone. This immediately brought another wicket as Westwood tucked the ball into the fine leg area, calling through Troughton only for Cork to flatten the stumps with a direct hit and Troughton was back in the hutch. Westwood then fell to Briggs, taking his tally to 27 for the season, but from 98-5 or something Ambrose and Rikki Clarke got Warwickshire up to a respectable score of 153-5, but crucially did not up the scoring rate as well as they could have given both batsmen were set.

As Lumb did not make it into the match day XI, Razzaq again opened with Adams, and Adams found the boundary rope with the second ball of the innings to get Hampshire underway. Carter had an lbw shout turned down against Adams but it was always going over the stumps. The pair scored very nicely, Adams in particular cutting and pulling with ruthless efficiency. Razzaq too finally found some batting form, the supposedly 30 year old has been disappointing overall as an overseas player, but this match he really earned his cheque, crashing a number of fours, one crunch down the ground was particularly Razzaq-like. Adams brought up his 18th run of the innings and his 600th run of the competition but then fell to Carter, hoicking one straight up in the air. Razzaq continued to play with effortless elegance though, hitting another four then greeting ex and soon to be not ex Hampshire spinner Tahir with a six that got Colville hopping in his seat thinking it would be caught but sub MacLeod was never going to reach it. Vince took to Immy too, crashing him through the off side, then pulling an amazing flat six off of one of the pacers. This was followed by a cut four before Piolet killed Razzaq with a straight one, Piolet doing an impression of one of the Bhangra Muffins from Goodness Gracious Me. McKenzie lofted Immy over extra cover for four, then brought up the 100 for Hampshire before being undone by a bit of a grubber from Piolet and the whole of Hampshire deflated and wept at the loss of the great man. I think not wearing sunglasses was the key. Slug showed no signs of having shifted his niggle by first nearly being out lbw, then nearly run out in the ensuing chaos. Another very near run out followed before a first proper shot in anger from Slug was caught extremely athletically on the boundary. If he had missed then it would have been six. Vince continued batting like a dream though, smiting another four before bringing up a classy 50 with a wonderful six.

Carberry was doing his bit from the other end too, somehow driving the ball for four on the legside when he looked completely cramped up. Vince survived a runout chance when the decision went upstairs, before Bumble invoked the standard curse by muttering "it's Hampshire's to lose". This was swiftly followed by a 2 that wasn't on, and Carberry was short of his ground. Christian came in and relieved perhaps not full blown pressure but more like a growing uneasiness by swatting a low full toss into the stands to get Hampshire's required runs below 10. DC then mugged Vince, turning him back with Carter's throw from close range just missing. Vince would have been gone by yards. Into the last over 5 runs were needed and Barker was bowling. The first ball was a dot, greeted by cheers from the substandard crowd. Next ball Vince tries to lap the ball over the keeper but instead picks up a leg-bye. 4 from 4. Great running gets a couple, then DC takes a single to get Vince on strike and 1 needed from 2. The ball is tucked into the legside and the pair scamper through, Barker letting his frustrations be known and Hampshire are through. Adams, Wood and Bates quickly mob the still running Vince, as Cork goes mad in the dugout, grabbing hold of anyone, Razzaq the main victim. The sun rightfully shines on Vince as he made his way back to the dugout, 66* to his name and a place at Finals Day sealed.

So Hampshire somehow make it to Finals Day for the first time in their history. It's felt like being on the motorway in a car being driven by an OAP, as Hampshire lurched from victory to defeat to thumping to being thumped. Feelings of despair and jubilation, but quite often despair as Hampshire went from decent to poor and back again. But, we scraped into fourth on the last day and we have more than taken our chance. I'd like to say who cares what happens at Finals Day, as getting there was a massive achievement in itself. However, there will be a part of me that for the entire run up to the day will be nervous and anxious as hell. Not because I naturally suffer badly from nerves, but because I have a feeling that maybe, just maybe, we can do it.


  1. As Lumb did not make it into the match day XI,

    "Sucks to be him", said Cork at the toss. Not literally but you know what I mean :D

    They did NOT score off of Wood. Not considerably that is.

  2. bah fuck. Now I clicked post instead of... whatever I wanted to click. There is not enough Briggslove in the post. I would hereby like to point out that Briggs is among the greatest things created by the Almighty. Much thought went into his creation, and much effort.
    Dear Slug, please get well soon, preferably before the 14th of August.

    ~ Play For Country Not For Self ~