Michael Carberry assessed Hampshire’s hopes of reclaiming their t20 crown and declared: This team is just as good as our previous title-winners.
The county extended their excellent record in the shortest form of the game by booking a quarter-final place for the sixth successive year with victory over Sussex on Friday night.
Only once in the past five years have they failed to convert that place in the last eight into a finals day appearance – in the defeat at Northamptonshire in 2009 – while they have twice gone on to win the trophy in both 2010 and 2012.
James Vince’s side complete their south division fixtures tonight in the trip to table-toppers Essex.
They look set to face another away fixture in the quarter-finals with Surrey almost certain to finish second in the table to claim the other home draw.
But Carberry, who hit 87 not out in the win over Sussex, believes that will not affect Hampshire’s hopes of getting their hands on the trophy for a third time with the core of the team providing experience and continuity.
He said: ‘I think this current team is as good as the teams that won the competition twice.
‘If you look around, it is pretty much the same group of players from 2010 and 2012.
‘Since then, we have made some really good additions but the core of the group – people like Vincey, myself, Jimmy Adams, Sean Ervine, Liam Dawson, Danny Briggs and Chris Wood – are very experienced performers at this level and in this format.
‘You never want to leave it to the next guy but if it’s not your day, you know that experience is there behind you.’
Carberry was a key part of the return to form in the six-run win over the Sharks on Friday night as he adapted his style to pilot his team out of early trouble and share a 111-run stand with Adams.
He said: ‘I’m there to be aggressive but I had to be a little bit more selective about what I went for.
‘We didn’t want to be three wickets down in the powerplay – that’s no good to anyone. So I eased off the throttle a little bit to allow Jimmy to get himself in and then once he started firing, I could go for my shots a bit more. Thankfully, it paid off.’
It was an intelligent innings from the talented left-hander and after rediscovering form, he will be keen to build on that at Chelmsford (6.30pm).
Surrey need to win just one of their remaining two fixtures – both away at Middlesex and Kent – to seal a home tie in the knockout phase and send Hampshire on the road again.
At this stage, Hampshire’s most likely opponents would appear to be either Nottinghamshire or Worcestershire in early August. While Vince knows it looks unlikely his men can steal a home tie, he insists there will be no let-up for tonight’s trip to Essex.
He said: ‘I think it will be tough to get a home tie but it’s not out of the question.
‘But we need to try to win that game anyway to give ourselves confidence going into the quarter-finals.
‘A couple of guys like myself and Glenn Maxwell could do with some runs.
‘But we’ve got ourselves into the quarter-finals. That means we’re one game away from finals day and three wins away from lifting the trophy.’