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Hampshire still eye Lord's triumph
AS Hampshire reflect on a rare Friends Life t20 defeat, they can at least console themselves with the knowledge that another Lord’s final is there for the taking.
Dimi Mascarenhas’s last t20 match for Hampshire may have ended on a sour note, the four-wicket defeat against Surrey ending the county’s hopes of ‘doing a Mo Farah’ by completing a 2012/13 Double Double.
But Mascarenhas can still end his career by winning county cricket’s 40-over ‘middle-distance’ format. Adding to his Lord’s winners medals of 2005 and 2009 would be the perfect send-off for the Royals’ all-rounder. Hampshire could secure a Yorkshire Bank 40 semi-final place as soon as tomorrow night, but their penultimate group game against Lancashire at Old Trafford also represents an early opportunity to start planning for a future without Mascarenhas.
Michael Carberry, James Vince, Danny Briggs are with the England Lions this week and Sohail Tanvir’s stint with the county ended on Saturday.
So opportunities beckon for the likes of Hamza Riazuddin, David Griffiths and Michael Roberts, while Michael Bates can expect to be recalled.
But Mascarenhas will not be easy to replace in the long-term and there is no guarantee that Neil McKenzie, who has been a key figure in Hampshire reaching Finals Day for the last four seasons, will be back for a fifth stint next year.
The times, they are a changing. Clearly, additions will be needed if the Royals are to maintain the standards they have set in recent seasons. Hampshire have done fantastically to have done as well as they have while using just 13 players during this year’s t20.
But they will not be so fortunate every year and Giles White and Rod Bransgrove will already have plans for 2014.
They will have noted how well the new t20 champions have done on a shoestring budget. Signings as shrewd as Steven Crook and Azharullah – key players in Northamptonshire’s triumph – will be much needed if Hampshire are to reach a fifth successive Finals Day.
If they do, they will be keen to make it a case of third time lucky at Edgbaston, the scene of their two Finals Day semi-final defeats in three years, as it is also the stage for the next four. The parallels with 2011 were uncanny on Saturday. Hampshire were playing with the burden of expectation following a very consistent group campaign with a Pakistani overseas player who, like Shahid Afridi two years earlier, bowled a few extra deliveries that cost the Royals the match. But there was no Super Over this time. Tanvir’s four wides, including two in Surrey’s first over, proved decisive enough. Once again, there was rain, if not the forecasted amount which at least ensured no repeat of a favourable Duckworth Lewis chase for the side batting second.
Like Somerset two years ago, Surrey decided to bowl first after winning the toss, but Hampshire batted poorly this time.
After failing to score from the first nine balls, the Royals lost their top three t20 run scorers this season – Michael Carberry, James Vince and Neil McKenzie (albeit to a terrible lbw decision) – in the first five overs. They never fully recovered.
Perhaps the biggest similarity with two years ago was the fact that Hampshire’s captain led from the front with the ball, as Dominic Cork had done in taking the 2011 semi-final to a Super Over, in his last t20 match for the county.
But while Edgbaston 2011 turned out to be Cork’s last appearance for Hampshire in all formats, Mascarenhas can still get the fitting send-off he deserves. As he said in concluding his final press conference as Hampshire captain: “We’re still lucky enough to have a chance to go to Lord’s and we’ll be working really hard to get there.”
Having missed last year’s cup double-securing victory through injury, winning the YB40 on September 21 would be the perfect way for Dimi to bow out.
Hampshire's big day at Lord's - pictures and reaction in today's Daily Echo
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