Hampshire’s defence of their Friends Life t20 title got off to a winning start as Neil McKenzie shrugged off his lucky escape.
The South African, who captained the side in the absence of the injured Dimi Mascarenhas, hit an unbeaten 37 as the Royals earned a five-wicket win at the Ageas Bowl.
But McKenzie got an extra life early in his innings when it was adjudged he had not edged a Zander de Bruyn delivery to Surrey wicketkeeper Gary Wilson.
The glovesman looked totally convinced he had snared the close-range catch with some wild gesticulations.
It certainly didn’t need a body language expert to understand that he thought he had been robbed.
But while the Royals star declined to confirm whether he had actually hit it – it was what he didn’t say that suggested there had been contact which the umpire had failed to spot at a key moment in the game.
McKenzie said: ‘You just have to check the scoreboard to see that I was not out!
‘That’s the way I play my cricket.
‘Everyone is allowed to appeal.
‘But it was one of my best friends bowling at the other end.
‘If I nicked it or didn’t nick it, I don’t want to be getting out to Zander – I would be hearing about it for the next 40 years!
‘Thank goodness that didn’t happen.’
McKenzie has been given out incorrectly enough times in his career to have the right to wait for an umpire’s decision and few batsmen walk – or effectively give themselves out – these days.
But his calming influence on the side is huge and had he been given out, Hampshire may well have struggled to chase down a target that McKenzie felt was at least 20 runs light – especially as Michael Carberry (60) sent the Royals on their way with a terrific knock.
McKenzie said: ‘It looked like a decent wicket and it skidded on quite nicely.
‘Chasing 139, if we got our basics right and someone got a start as Carbs did, it would have been hard to not get there.
‘With the start Surrey got, they should have been looking for another 20 runs.
‘I think 160 would have been a good target and made us hit out a bit more.
‘But we didn’t have to go that hard in the middle once Carbs got us off to that start.’
McKenzie is now hopeful he can hand back the captaincy to Mascarenhas when Hampshire go to Essex tomorrow evening.
He said: ‘I’m obviously honoured to be captain and if I have to do it, then that’s fine.
‘But I don’t want to be captain because I want Dimi to be fit and playing.
‘It was a good team effort from all of the guys. It’s never easy – you can never really relax. But it was nice to get over the line.’