One-day kings make it a memorable campaign

Gareth Berg

Impressive Berg ensures flying start for Hampshire

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In any season, there are highs and lows, but it’s hard to recall a summer of such cricketing extremes in summing up Hampshire’s efforts for the 2012 campaign.

Their double success in limited-overs cricket was as spectacular as it was unprecedented.

Pulsating Friends Life t20 glory over Somerset in the semi-final and then Yorkshire in the final at Cardiff was a fabulous feat in itself.

Under most circumstances, that would be more than enough to represent a successful campaign.

But when that was quickly followed by that extraordinary Lord’s victory over Warwickshire in the CB40 a week ago, it underlined a golden period for the club that has now seen them lift four trophies in four years.

Hampshire are the best limited-overs side in domestic cricket and anyone who disagrees should have a look at their own trophy cabinet.

Before the season started, the Ageas Bowl players stated the priority was a return to the top division in the Championship – something they ultimately failed to achieve with a fourth-placed finish.

And that will leave just the hint of a sour taste in the mouth.

But most supporters would have happily traded staying in division two to see those two memorable occasions.

Frankly, it doesn’t make too much difference which division the four-day games are in to most paying spectators or loyal members.

But the squad and the management still retain that burning collective ambition to be crowned county champions and that can’t be done from division two.

The weather certainly played a part in a disappointing four-day challenge, with so many games affected.

It left batsmen struggling for rhythm and form, with only skipper Jimmy Adams coming close to the 1,000-runs barrier with 987.

But eight centuries – and Adams accounted for three of those – simply didn’t represent enough consistency.

While the rejuvenated David Balcombe (59 wickets) and the ever-reliable James Tomlinson (43) prospered with the ball, the bowling unit often lacked someone to change a game that was drifting.

And with pitches often prepared for seamers, it meant that spinner Danny Briggs played just four Championship games, taking only five wickets.

Hampshire also allowed commanding positions in games to slip through their grasp too many times to be considered as genuine promotion challengers.

But perhaps that failure to win promotion was no bad thing in the grand scheme of things, with the club putting their faith in youth.

Another year to develop will do them no harm at all.

Liam Dawson and Sean Ervine both improved in all forms this season – Dawson’s fine slip-catching and rediscovered spin bowling adding to steady batting.

Ervine also found a missing yard of pace with the ball to add to his explosive batting and restore his all-round credentials.

Michael Bates’ wicketkeeping continued to soar, with a total of 65 dismissals and his maiden first-class century.

His batting remains a weakness but if he can improve upon an average of just 19.86, he is surely destined for international honours based on the quality of his work behind the stumps.

But James Vince perhaps personified the club’s fortunes with his own fluctuating experiences.

The gifted batsman managed just 417 Championship runs at a lowly average of 24.52 in the four-day game and was dropped.

But with the white ball, he blasted 555 runs in the CB40, with an average of 55.50, and was the club’s top run-scorer in the Friends Life t20 with 254 runs.

Even Vince himself struggled to explain the contrast between the formats.

But he was not alone. Championship also-rans Hampshire may well have been – but they were the undisputed limited-overs kings.