It was like meeting up for a pint with an old friend who’d been away for some time.
Hampshire tasted that winning feeling once again – something that had probably become a distant memory after their poor start to the campaign – as they kicked off their Friends Life t20 title defence in style with victory over Somerset last night.
A comprehensive all-round performance saw them secure a seven-wicket win with nine balls to spare – a battering in t20 terms.
But while talk of Shahid Afridi’s absence was the main talking point before the game, it was another all-rounder who stole the show with the ball as Dimi Mascarenhas turned in a fabulous show.
Fielding first, Hampshire turned in a smart performance in the field, after Somerset skipper Marcus Trescothick won the toss and chose to bat.
And it was Mascarenhas, sporting a new red tint to his hair, who set the tone. With a superb spell of bowling, he kept his side on the front foot with three wickets to carve through the visitors’ top order.
Things started brightly in the second over as Neil McKenzie took an excellent slip catch at the second attempt to dismiss Trescothick, while Roelof van der Merwe and James Hildreth followed soon afterwards to Mascarenhas.
Only Peter Trego (55) gave the visitors genuine hope of posting a competitive total, but it was the Royals’ fielding that was the cornerstone of keeping their rivals down to 145 for seven. James Vince took two terrific catches diving around at the boundary from Dominic Cork’s bowling, while Imran Tahir looked like a man who hadn’t played for two months but eventually picked up a wicket.
In reply, the hallmarks of Hants’ t20 success last season were revived as Jimmy Adams and Michael Lumb laid the foundations with a blistering opening partnership of 90 inside the first 10 overs.
While Lumb has spent much of the previous couple of months sat on his backside away at the IPL with Deccan Chargers, he looked in fantastic nick for his 33-ball 53, which included six fours and three sixes.
His wicket eventually fell when he was brilliantly caught going for another mighty maximum as Arul Suppiah leapt high to cling on to make the breakthrough in the 10th over.
And Adams (39) followed him soon afterwards, missing a straight Murali Kartik delivery that clattered his stumps to leave the Royals at 101 for two.
But Vince (31) – who fell after a bright knock with just one run required – and McKenzie (17 not out) kept their heads and played sensibly to avoid any hint of a batting collapse that has been a feature of Hampshire’s season so far.
Sometimes a team needs a spark to ignite their season.
Hampshire will be hoping they can now fan the flames against Surrey tomorrow night.