Matt Coles looks almost certain to become a Hampshire player in the next few days after turning in a match-winning display.
The on-loan Kent all-rounder brought the curtain down on the 2013 domestic season with Hampshire’s second straight win as they finished a disappointing County Championship campaign with a flourish.
While some would suggest it was rather too little, too late as they ended the season in mid-table obscurity, their victory over a disinterested Essex by an innings and 31 runs was certainly a convincing one.
And Coles, whose match figures of 10 for 154 were the best of his career, now looks set to seal a permanent move to the south coast – even though he played down what looks to be a done deal.
Coles said: ‘Hopefully we will come to a decision within the next 24 to 48 hours.
‘I’ll talk to my parents and my agent and then go from there.
‘It’s obviously a big decision for me and I just want to make the right choice.
‘But the way things are going at the moment makes it a little easier. I’ve loved every minute of it.’
While James Tomlinson (53) was the county’s leading wicket-taker, Coles’ haul of 21 wickets in five matches at an average of 24, put him just behind David Balcombe and Danny Briggs (both 22) with both men having played 12 matches this year.
And with his fine 10-wicket display in the final game of the season, he overtook both Sean Ervine (17) and Chris Wood (15) in the wicket-taking charts.
Coles said: ‘I’m pretty speechless but I’m very happy and more importantly, we have bowled well as a team and got the win.
‘I didn’t think I was going to get there.
‘A chance went down in the slips and I thought it had gone.
‘I was panicking a little but luckily I got there in the end.
‘More importantly we bowled well as a team and got the win.
‘So it was good to finish the season on a high.
‘The first two games were a little bit tentative, that was probably always going to be the case.
‘But I think I’ve shown what I can do with the ball in the last two.’
Essex were following on having been bowled out for a paltry 207 in their first innings and fared little better with their second attempt, crumbling to 218 all out.
Only Graham Napier (53) stuck around for the visitors as Tomlinson (four for 63) and Coles (four for 83) ripped through the batting line-up to finish the match and the season with a day to spare.
And Coles revealed he has already struck up a good rapport with his new team-mates, which makes it even more likely he will agree a permanent deal in the coming days as part of what looks like a squad overhaul at the Ageas Bowl.
He said: ‘Here everyone is a similar age and it’s like playing with your mates.
‘When that’s the case you enjoy it a bit more.
‘Hampshire tick a lot of boxes for me.
‘It’s been an enjoyable month, especially with such a young group.
‘I have played with and against a few of them over the last few years.
‘So it’s a good club in that sense, it’s just making sure I make the right decision.’