McKenzie: We never stopped believing

Neil McKenzie and Dimi Mascarenhas celebrate after guiding the Royals to finals day. Picture: Dave Vokes/LMI Photography
Neil McKenzie and Dimi Mascarenhas celebrate after guiding the Royals to finals day. Picture: Dave Vokes/LMI Photography
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Match-winner Neil McKenzie insisted Hampshire never lost their belief of making a third finals day on the trot as they clinched a dramatic quarter-final success over Nottinghamshire.

The South African hit a fabulous unbeaten 79 to take the Royals to Friends Life t20 finals day once again, where they will face a semi-final showdown with Somerset in Cardiff on Saturday, August 25.

But even with the Hampshire innings seemingly in tatters at 78 for five, McKenzie remained in total control to pace the run-chase perfectly.

He explained: ‘It was fantastic to get the win. The boys are really looking forward to finals day now.

‘It was a really good team performance. We thought they might have got a few too many but every batter who came out there had the belief and they were really positive.

‘Liam Dawson played a great knock, Simon Katich gave the innings some impetus and Dimi came in at the end and did the job really well.

‘It was nice to contribute. I’ve been a bit frustrated with how things have gone because I haven’t done too much for the team this season.

‘Dimi was harsh on me – he told me I should have won it in the previous over!

‘But there’s a nice blend in the side and having a few older heads always helps.’

With McKenzie struck down by a leg injury in the final over and needing a runner, he admitted he was getting used to Hampshire’s nailbiting finishes.

He said: ‘I don’t know what I did – it’s either 36-year-old cramp or a pulled hamstring. I’m not too sure.

‘I didn’t want to lie down too long at the end because my eye was in and I was seeing the ball well.

‘But it actually worked quite well with Vincey coming on with some fresh legs.

‘Hampshire warned me when I first got here that they don’t do things easily. There had to be a twist at the end and I’m glad it worked in our favour.

‘This is Hampshire. We’re used to a few twists and turns like that!’

With the visitors levelling the scores with one ball to go, McKenzie was told he only had to avoid getting out from the final ball of the match to seal Hampshire’s progress – even though they had actually already done enough.

He said: ‘I knew that a tie was good enough, so I just knew I had to get the big forward defence in and get my pad out of the way.

‘It was a great feeling to win it, though.’