HAMPSHIRE fly to the Champions League tomorrow, hoping to win the perfect wedding present for Danny Briggs – a third trophy in two months.
<>The Royals will be without the England star for the whole tournament as it clashes with his big day, which he has already had to postpone once following his inclusion in England’s World Twenty20 squad.
Hampshire are also without Simon Katich and Neil McKenzie, who will be playing for the Perth Scorchers and the Highveld Lions respectively.
But manager Giles White – having re-signed Shahid Afridi and Glenn Maxwell as his overseas players – is confident he still has a squad that can win next week’s qualifiers, against Auckland Aces and Pakistan’s Sialkot Stallions.
“Danny’s a big loss, but we’re fortunate to have Afridi and Maxwell coming in as they’re both spin options,” said White, who has also called up David Balcombe, Hampshire’s leading wicket-taker in all cricket this year, as Briggs’ replacement.
With conditions in South Africa typically more favourable to pacemen, White admitted: “It might open up a position for an extra seamer and it’s a great opportunity for Balcs.”
All-rounders Afridi and Maxwell could be in opposition in Sunday’s World Twenty20 final with Pakistan and Australia playing their respective semifinals today and tomorrow.
They will join their Hampshire teammates in Johannesburg after the World Twenty20, but not in time for the Royals’ warm-up match against Sri Lanka champions Uva Next on Sunday.
Afridi and Maxwell starred for Hampshire in 2011 and 2012 respectively – but will play their first Royals game together in the first qualifier against Jimmy Adams’ former Auckland Aces teammates at Supersport Park, Centurion on Wednesday.
White is relishing the opportunity to re-unite the former Melbourne Renegades teammates.
“We’ve played a slightly different brand of Twenty 20 cricket over each of the last few years and it will be the same again at the Champions League,” he said.
“It will be another different brand of cricket but an exciting one.
We’ll miss the experience and steady heads of Katich and McKenzie, but Afridi and Maxwell are both matchwinners.
“It’s a very powerful batting line up but we’re also going to need some mature innings along the way so will need guys to adapt to certain scenarios. We need to build innings as well as be explosive.”
If Hampshire beat Auckland – at Supersport Park, Centurion – and the Stallions – at The Wanderers, Johannesburg –- next Wednesday and Thursday, they would face the likes of IPL giants Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils in Group A.
“We’ve got over the right side of some fine lines recently so there’s a certain amount of confidence, but it’s about putting in two good performances,”
“If we do that we’ll be going somewhere exciting.
It’s a chance for the players to showcase themselves against the best on the world stage.”
Hampshire squad: Adams, Afridi, Kabir Ali, Balcombe, Bates, Carberry, Dawson, Ervine, Griffiths, Mascarenhas, Maxwell, Riazuddin,