Hampshire prepare for top-flight return

James Vince in pre-season action against Loughborough
James Vince in pre-season action against Loughborough
  • Hampshire last in Division One in September 2011
  • Skipper Jimmy Adams’ side start their season tomorrow against Sussex
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DALE BENKENSTEIN has warned Hampshire may require time to adjust being back in cricket’s top flight.

But the first-team coach is confident the division two title-holders can cope with the step up.

I think we have the players. However, you can have everything on paper but it is hard to go and perform

Dale Benkenstein

After three seasons away from the County Championship’s division one, Hampshire have returned – and will tomorrow host Sussex in the curtain raiser for the new campaign (11am).

A 291-run victory at Glamorgan last September catapulted the Ageas Bowl side back into the league they vacated in 2011.

Now Jimmy Adams’ outfit must remain there, competing against the likes of reigning champions Yorkshire, Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire.

Confidence is understandably high following last season’s promotion, with the Hampshire squad possessing plenty of strength.

But Benkenstein is only too aware it may take time to re-acclimatise to their new surroundings.

‘The team hasn’t been in the first division for a while so it will probably take a bit of time to find our feet – but I think you approach every cricket game the same,’ he said.

‘Whatever the division in four-day cricket, we go out there to try to perform as well as we can and win.

‘In the one-day format the team is used to being one of the favourites, that doesn’t need to change.

‘But I’m hoping the challenge of division one cricket will bring out the best in our players, which is generally what big games do.

‘This is a good step up for them. I think it is where all of them want to be and that is enough motivation to hopefully get them to play good cricket.

‘I believe the gap is big between the bottom three teams in division two and the whole of division one – it’s also starting to widen.

‘Players want to be in division one, so every time someone performs well in division two – if they get an opportunity to go up a level – then they tend to go.

‘It is almost a natural process and division one is getting stronger.

‘You look at the division two squads and finances as well. If you can’t afford the best players you will probably have a good XI but not a good 16.

‘Whereas you look at some division one teams and they have a good 20, they can play two teams and they will both be equally as strong.

‘In division two they don’t have that luxury. If they have nine or 10 good players in their squad that is about as much as they can get.’

Hampshire will be looking at newly-appointed one-day captain James Vince to once again finish among the runs.

He accrued an outstanding 1,525 runs last term, including four centuries.

Top wicket-taker was the long-serving James Tomlinson, with 47 wickets at an average of 25.85.

Jackson Bird, Andre Adams and Gareth Berg are among the summer recruits to have been added to the squad – and Benkenstein is pleased with how it has shaped up.

‘I think we are getting there,’ he added. ‘Batting-wise, we are fairly strong, but you still have to work on that – you can’t take it as a given.

‘In terms of bowling, for a couple of years we have identified seam bowling as an area we are not producing many local players so we have had to go and find other bowlers to fill those gaps.

‘I think we have the players. However, you can have everything on paper but it is hard to go and perform.’