Jimmy Adams believes Hampshire will benefit from the underdogs tag as they bid to bridge the gap to Championship division one this season.
The Hampshire skipper led his side back to the top flight last September as division two champions and is relishing the chance to go up against the top county sides in four-day cricket again this season.
After their relegation from division one in 2011, it was third-time lucky, as the Ageas Bowl outfit found the right formula for the longer version of the game, despite their success in limited overs cricket.
But with promoted sides finding themselves cast as whipping boys for the past two seasons, Hampshire need to continue their improvement against better opposition when the campaign kicks off on April 12 against Sussex.
And Adams is comfortable knowing that his side can spring a few surprises.
He said: ‘In recent years, there has been a reasonably consistent trend of promoted teams struggling and then going straight back to division two. We’ve got to buck that trend.
We might surprise a few people along the wayJimmy Adams
‘From our experience of division two, we were often touted as being up there challenging.
‘What effect it had, I don’t know but we didn’t seem to respond as well as we would have liked.
‘Some people felt we should have gone up as soon as we went down but it took us a long time to get that right.
‘I don’t think it’s a bad thing we haven’t been mentioned as possible challengers for the title because we might surprise a few people along the way.
‘That’s partly down to the fact that the teams who have come up in recent years have really struggled.
‘At least one of those teams have had a really tough year – Derbyshire and Northants in the past two years have had brutal introductions to the top flight.
‘But I would like to think we are more experienced and we have a group that can do better than that.
‘I would be disappointed if we do find ourselves struggling but there are no easy games in division one and we need to be on our mettle all the time.
‘I’ve always quite enjoyed it when we fly under the radar – from a personal and a team level.
‘When you think back to those t20 finals days, it was rare that we were favourites going into them and when we have been, we haven’t delivered when it mattered.
‘Hopefully, that’s a good omen.’
Hampshire’s batting is settled and largely unchanged from last season’s normal line-up.
But the bowling attack could have three new faces in it for the first game, with Andre Adams, Jackson Bird and Gareth Berg all recruited.
West Indies pace bowler, Fidel Edwards, will also join up in July.
While they are all in the latter part of their careers, the Hampshire captain feels they have the right blend alongside James Tomlinson, Chris Wood, Sean Ervine, Liam Dawson and Danny Briggs.
Adams said: ‘People have spoken about the age of the people we have recruited.
‘But we feel that these guys have plenty to offer.
‘We’ve added a bit to our bowling department in terms of experience.
‘They are not youngsters but they are proven performers.’