I'm going to be honest here. I'm a complete mess. A prior warning for this blog, like me it's going to be a complete mess as well. Even though it is nearing two days from the end of a quite extraordinary day, for a simple county fan like me to get my head round my team doing what they managed to do against Essex and Somerset at home with thunderstorms tracking the area (saw a beauty over Salisbury) is very difficult indeed. I like to think of myself as a realist, whilst others will suggest I'm a bloody pessimist. It's the old thing of thinking the worst then everything else is a bonus but I genuinely held the view that at the end of it all I was just chuffed that Hampshire had made it to Finals Day for the first time, leaving just Yorkshire, Worcestershire and Derbyshire without that taste of 11 hour cricket. When you looked at the other teams, they just appeared so superior. Essex welcomed back RTD, though obviously having not played any cricket for two months, the Dutchman was never going to be at his best. They also boasted Grant Flower at 8, though 6 balls faced and no overs bowled suggest that Essex did not use him properly. I guess that pretty much sums up Essex's day to be truthful. They of course felt compelled to get as much out of 10k Bravo (which turned out to be not much at all), and so batted him ahead of players he shouldn't have batted ahead of, and then was given a full quota of overs when two should have been more than enough. Any team in their right mind would not bat Walker, Foster, Flower at 6, 7, 8. They just struck me as a team of individuals, finding places in the side for Bravo and Cook at the expense of players that got them to Finals Day. Each player in that side is capable of absolute brilliance, but throw them all together and expect them to come off was just never going to happen.
The three captains (well, they tried their best)
Notts' decision to pick Broad and Swann has been much debated, and in my view they fell into the same trap as Essex with Bravo and Cook. Swann played well, picking 2 wickets up with an economy of 6 and accounting for Tresco when he was looking lethal. However, promoted to opener and falling for 11 off 9 when 10 an over is needed was both a failure and a disruption to the settled order that had seen Hales and Brown open. Broad, in a word, was crap. 4 overs, 1-44 and to be honest he was lucky to get away with an economy rate that low. Darren Pattinson must be seriously fed up, having done all the hard work in the group stages and quarter finals, only to see his place taken by someone who was obviously better because he played for England. They weren't helped by off days for their normally reliable opening pair of Sidebottom and Nannes, and combined these two and Broad returned figures of 11-0-119-1. Compared to the spin duo of Swann and Patel who returned 8-0-44-3. Dussey and Patel were their reliable best with the bat, but that super Pollard catch and the rain conspired to knock them out. Pretty much deserved it really, despite fans' protestations that they were in fact the best team in the country and the title should be theirs by right.
The third team at Finals Day that do not of course hold demi-god status were by far the most team-like of teams out of the three teams. Follow? Somerset played hard, fast, flamboyant cricket throughout the tournament, and really deserved that semi-final win. The boy wonder to rival the other boy wonders in Briggs, Taylor and Stokes really came to the party in the semi-final, smashing 55 to turn the game around. Buttler is still only 19 but must surely go on the Lions tour this winter. Tresco was his normal belligerent self, but Bedwetter was a bit of an enigma. Ended up scoring quite a few runs in the day, but never looked anywhere near being a world beater. Their bowling was decent but Kartik was not potent, though to be expected given the conditions, whilst Pollard without the ball in hand probably decided the final. It was a sickening blow he received from Cork, who was visibly shaken by the incident. Somerset deserved to be in the final more than Notts and Essex, but of course so did another team.
Which therefore brings me onto the fourth team present at Finals Day. The rank outsiders, the romantics, Dad's Army, call them what you want Hampshire were there on home turf and loved every single second of it. The only team of the three not to have reached Finals Day before and in a way it showed. Yes everyone enjoyed themselves, but the other teams portrayed the fact that they had been there before, as if they reckoned they knew roughly what they were doing. Hampshire's approach was simple. Stick with the same team from the latter group stages and quarter final, give it everything and if it comes off, brilliant, if not then never mind. So much is mentioned about big names etc and performing on the day. Well, Hampshire didn't exactly have the stars of the other teams but the big names came good. Vital contributions were obvious from McKenzie and Razzaq, whilst the likes of Adams, Carberry, Christian and Slug put in telling performances, Slug taking on extra responsibility with the bat due to not being able to bowl. The younger players were also very impressive. Vince and Wood had off days with the bat and ball respectively, but Vince's catching was superb, whilst Wood's long range direct hit to remove Bravo was the sucker punch that deflated Essex's title bid. Briggs and Bates worked wonders, Briggs taking the most number of wickets on finals day (4), whilst Bates was alert and energetic as ever behind the stumps. You of course can not ignore Cork. Half OAP, half scourge of the county game, Cork was born for big occasions, taking man of the match last year in the 50 over final at Lord's, whilst leading a ramshackle team to home glory in the 20/20 this year. Was aggressive and accurate with the ball, whilst also putting in the hard yards in the field. Made the right call at the toss for the semi final, whilst also being his inspirational self not just for the players but for the crowd as well. Was affected clearly by the Pollard accident, but was still composed enough to take 2 wickets and conceed just 3 runs in that final over. What Cork has done for Hampshire is nigh on immeasurable.
Says it all, really
So what is the effect of this win on Hampshire? Obviously they are £200,000 better off, whilst Macca has a nice fat cheque and a magnum of champagne for his troubles. Cork and Bransgrove have their hands on another trophy, whilst the team were able to unfurl the victory banner once again, but with 09 altered to 10. For Slug it was his third cup, the only player remaining in the team from that 2005 victory. The biggest effect will be on the younger players though. A first taste of a final for all four of them, and most importantly a win. I suspect that their already high confidence will move to another level, and it follows that their skills will move upwards too. Caution will have to be taken not to get too caught up in it all, but each of these four, as well as Dawson and Riazuddin, possess bucket-fulls of natural talent they can all progress. A youthful, confident core of talented players would be a dream for any team, and Hampshire have the chance to build something significant in the extreme for the years to come. With a knee up from Cork, of course.
A brief word on a certain Aussie. The melon Christian had a rare old day. Following his ten rounds with Mike Tyson on the Thursday, Christian bowled with pace and a bit of wildness, taking the wicket of Cook, caught at short fine leg by Briggs off a terrible ball. The batting was, umm, interesting, a sweet shot only resulted in two and left him with a buggered hamstring. Found missing the ball yielded a better outcome despite being a complete clutz and nearly losing the game for Hampshire. You gotta love him though, with all his injuries, bruises, foibles, mistakes and carelessness. Oh, and as proved by his post match interview, he isn't the robot as predicted by some.
There is, of course, a much better look back at events from Wes here.
Think the humour/ huggable nature of Wes, plus the knowledge of greyblazer, then reverse it and you have a blogger basically resembling me. I spend way too much time following cricket and writing very poorly about it, so for those with a sympathetic streak, enjoy the blog!
Like anyone would be interested in a label called 'crap'...