Hampshire might just have got their season back on track last night with an ultimately comfortable win over Somerset in a re-run of last season’s T20 final.
The oft-maligned and oft-injured Dimi Mascarenhas (3-19) was the key man with the ball as he ripped through Somerset’s top order, removing Marcus Trescothick, Roelof van der Merwe and James Hildreth cheaply, leaving the visitors fighting to keep the game alive at 37/3.
Peter Trego held the Somerset innings together with a classy 55 from 37 balls, and Nick Compton added a scratchy 37 at less than a run a ball to at least post a total that was defendable, finishing on 145/7.
In reply, Hampshire’s opening pair of Jimmy Adams and Michael Lumb pretty much had the game wrapped up at the halfway stage having put on a stand of 90, but Lumb’s unfortunate dismissal when he was caught in the deep by Arul Suppiah for 53 off a Trego full toss that might have been given a no-ball for height could have precipitated a spectacular collapse that the hosts have been rather fond of in recent times.
Indeed, it was the corresponding group stage fixture last season which saw Hampshire fail to chase down a score of 103, having been 93/4, on a pitch marked as “poor” by the ECB which has cost them a two-point deduction before play even began at the Rose Bowl last night.
However, Neil McKenzie’s calm presence, after Adams had been bowled trying to swipe at Murali Kartik, saw the Royals home with 9 balls to spare – pretty much a thrashing in this form of the game. The win came despite the late withdrawal of star overseas signing Shahid Afridi, unable to play after the PCB revoked his no-objection certificate in the wake of critical comments aimed at the board of selectors.
Hampshire remain hopeful that they can get the decision revoked to allow him to play, and if he does become available, it gives Dominic Cork’s men a very strong look about them. The likely man to miss out would be Benny Howell, who made his T20 debut here, and would result in a six-strong bowling attack including three excellent spin options in Afridi, Danny Briggs (last year’s second-leading T20 wicket-taker) and Imran Tahir.
The batting has been the weakness for the Royals in the Championship and CB40 so far this season, with only Adams and Liam Dawson making a serious contribution, but the return of Lumb from IPL duty should strengthen the side, especially in the shorter form of the game. Let’s not forget, he is a World T20 winner with England, and aligned with Adams, last year’s leading run-scorer with 668, it’s a pretty strong opening pair.
Cork will probably have been delighted when Marcus Trescothick elected to bat first at the toss – the majority of Hampshire’s success in T20 in recent years has come when they have been chasing a target. Much like we saw with England in the 50-over format in the subcontinent recently, they seem to struggle to determine what a good score is and end up falling some way short, so it’s possible that repeated success in the competition this year could be down to something as trivial as the toss of a coin.
Somerset will be disappointed with their overall performance with both bat and ball, and Trescothick admitted that they had simply been outplayed on the night, but they are among the favourites to go one further than last year for a reason and they will come back strongly.