Dale Benkenstein believes Hampshire’s extraordinary Championship division one survival can act as a catalyst for a genuine title challenge next season.
James Vince’s side stormed to an eight-wicket win over Nottinghamshhire and then retained their top-flight status after Yorkshire beat Sussex to send the Hove club down.
But the first-team coach is now looking for his players to take the momentum into next season and challenge at the top end of the table after looking doomed to relegation for so much of this campaign.
Benkenstein said: ‘We’re definitely celebrating. If Carlsberg did staying up in the first division, then this is how you do it.
‘Most teams come up and go straight back down again.
‘But I think we have proved ourselves and we have beaten nearly all of the top sides.
‘Losing to Yorkshire last week was not a true relfection of that match.
‘So I think it shows that we are good enough to compete at the top and shouldn’t have been down there at the bottom.
‘In my experience when I was playing at Durham, we came up in 2006 and stayed up by half a point on the final day of the season.
‘Notts needed two points in their game to stay up and we couldn’t catch them but they didn’t get them.
We were playing Yorkshire and we ended up getting a draw to stay up by half a point.
‘The next season we were second and then we won the Championship the next year. So this can be a real springboard for us.
‘Teams do struggle when they first get up. Staying up is a difficult thing to do so next year we’ve got to look higher.
‘I think we have the players to do that and they have shown that they are definitely good enough to play in the top division.
‘Hopefully, the players will get a lot of confidence going into next year and we can have a good start, rather than the tough start we had this year.’
Hampshire chased down their victory target of 200 with relative ease as Michael Carberry (84 not out) and Jimmy Adams (70) shared an opening stand of 129.
Although Vince was cleaned up with his first delivery, Will Smith (34 not out) made sure there were no further alarms and Carberry cut loose towards the end.
With Hampshire doing their bit, it left champions Yorkshire to finish the job and beat Sussex, which they duly did by 100 runs.
And as the result filtered through, Hampshire knew they were safe.
Benkenstein said: ‘It’s a great achievement.
‘We struggled in the early part of the season but we got the balance of the side right and played better cricket over these past couple of months.’