Monday, 29 September 2008

2008 Season Review: Hampshire

Final Placings:
County Championship Division One – 3rd;
FP Trophy - 4th, South-Eastern Conference;
Twenty20 Cup – 4th, South Division;
Pro40 Division One – 2nd.

Hampshire enjoyed a respectable season in 2008 and the final results look quite promising for the future. Indeed it was a season of two halves and it could have been a whole lot worse! In the initial few weeks of the season things looked grim. Dimitri Mascarenhas was away in India or with England more often than not and Chris Tremlett was enduring a frustrating time with injuries yet again, a trend which continued throughout the year. Greg Lamb looked woefully short of being a threatening four day spin bowler, much less a replacement for Shane Warne (8 wickets at 71.37), and he has in fact now been released by the county. The batting was experiencing it’s usual woes, with even the normally reliable John Crawley and Nic Pothas both out of form. Then, Shane Bond (19 at 19.21) got injured and Hampshire were without an overseas player and were missing their entire bowling attack from the previous season, James Bruce and Warne having of course retired, whilst Shaun Udal had switched allegiances.

The Friends Provident Trophy campaign never really got going and Hampshire soon found themselves bottom of the County Championship. Paul Terry parted company with the county and the search for a replacement is ongoing, with Chris Adams high on the list of wanted candidates. The Twenty20 Cup campaign, the finals day of which was held at the Rose Bowl, was less disappointing than usual, with the county only one victory from making the knockout stage. Shane Watson’s failure to show up was a blow, although Ian Harvey did a good job in his absence, with both Michael Lumb and Michael Carberry continuing to show that they are excellent limited overs performers. Nante Hayward was briefly impressive before succumbing to injury and it will be interesting to see if Hawks fans see any more of the South African Kolpak signing next season. In a competition as strong as the South Division though, it was always going to be hard to emerge from the group which contained three of the four semi-finalists and furthermore, the two finalists.

Into the backend of the season and Hampshire were occupying one of the two relegation places in the Championship and it was questionable as to how they could turn it around. Imran Tahir’s arrival as overseas player marked the beginning of the recovery, as did the emergence of spinning allrounder Liam Dawson, who scored his maiden century in the final day victory over Nottinghamshire. The two spinners dominated opposition batting line-ups in the Pro40 competition, sweeping Hampshire to second, Dawson finishing with 11 at 13.72 and Tahir with 12 at 20.33, whilst Billy Taylor also chipped in with an impressive 13 at 15.38. In fact, were it not for the rain, Hampshire would in all likelihood have won the competition, with Sean Ervine finding some late form. Meanwhile, in the four day game, Tahir especially was proving to be a real trump card, as opposition batsmen the land over were bamboozled by his vast array of mysterious deliveries. The Pakistani A leg spinner was definitely key to the revival in Hampshire’s fortunes. Meanwhile, sides continued to struggle with the impressive James Tomlinson, the young left arm seamer, who was consistent throughout the entire season and ended as the divisions top wicket taker, most impressive.

As per usual the main problem with Hampshire was the batting, although at the start of the season the bowling had looked to be the more pressing concern. In the Championship only Nic Pothas (53.5) and Michael Brown (40.86) managed to finish with respectable averages, whilst Michaels’ Lumb (32.72) and Carberry (28.60) continue to fail to transfer their fine limited overs returns into the Championship. John Crawley meanwhile appears to have seen his best days (27.73 from only 9 matches). Only Pothas (3) scored more than one hundred and he also registered the best score (137). Hampshire’s deep batting was once again their saving grace and it is clear where the Hawks need to improve in the future, especially as they mustered only 33 batting points (7th in the division), yet managed 47 bowling points (1st in the division).

The bowling figures do look a lot better for Hampshire, with Tahir (44 at 16.68), Tomlinson (67 at 24.76) and Mascarenhas (41 at 23.82) the stand out performers, though it is worth noting that Tremlett had a disappointing year (27 at 37.0), due to both injury and knock backs from Team England. Between them, Tahir (44) and Bond (19), compensated well for the absence of former captain Shane Warne, whilst Mascarenhas tried to continue the Warne tradition of attacking and playing to win. He was however overly cautious until the end of the season, the game against Lancashire at Old Trafford a prime example of how a crisis of confidence and a mentality of safety first had set in at the club after the poor first half of the season.

Player of the season:
It would be easy to point to Imran Tahir, as his arrival had such a massive impact, but without the ever dependable Nic Pothas, the county’s highest run scorer, and the consistent wicket taking ability of James Tomlinson, Hampshire would probably have been sunk before his arrival. Those two rightly share the award from this commentator.

Most disappointing player:
Greg Lamb. 8 wickets at 71.37 is awful for a spinner, a batting average of 20.92 is a poor average for an allrounder and it is no surprise that the club finally released him early, after he managed just 1 wicket at 102, from 17 overs, in the Pro40 and a 0 from his one innings. He was never going to be a replacement for Warne or Udal as a specialist bowler, but he can not even be called an allrounder unfortunately after this season.

Highlight: The dramatic low scoring victory over Durham which proved to be a key moment in the season following the victory over Yorkshire, with Sean Ervine crucially hitting 94 not out, as Hampshire recovered from being bowled out for 96 in the first innings and from having slumped to 77 for 5 in their second, to score a winning total of 240-8, beating eventual Championship winners Durham in the process by two wickets. Nail biting stuff.

Lowlight: Having to wait until mid-June for the first County Championship win, interestingly enough, it was also against Durham. It was probably the result of a loss of leadership, with Warne throwing in the towel just weeks before the start of the season and Mascarenhas gallivanting off to India to join him for a few weeks.

IX of the Season:

Pothas (wk)
Mascarenhas (c)


Tim said...

Great piece Chris - Tahir was amazing but you were right to highlight Tomlinson. Shame about Tremlett though, who seems like he will never make it, for all his Harmy-esque qualities. See he's not in the Lions squad - a missed opportunity?

Anyway, I don't think I'll ever be able to understand why Mascarenhas has fallen out of favour. Maybe if he played for Sussex...

Philip Oliver said...

Agreed. Not sure how the selectors can justify having Cook in the Stanford squad ahead of him (I don't just push Essex players for England!)
Pietersen seems to have a decent say in selection - perhaps a Hampshire fallout with Dimi?
It is ironic that England have all these Notts players in their squads!

Chrispy said...

KP and Masca were good friends from what I knew. More a case of not upsetting anyone in the shop! Not an IPL side would want Cook anyway!

Tremlett was tight mostly but didn't take the wickets. I think he may be trying to sort his fitness hence no Lions place,or prehaps they are losing faith...

Adrian said...

A better season for Hants than I expected, they need to make some good signings over the winter, especially after contriving to lose Brown to Surrey. Cork could be the experienced bowling pro we need but the big problem is, as ever, batting consistency and this is where the major improvements need to come.