Giles White believes it will be harder than ever for Hampshire to retain their Friends Life t20 crown.
The Royals manager saw his side’s bid for two straight wins in this year’s competition halted by rain at Essex last night with just two overs bowled before the game was abandoned.
Hamish Rutherford (14 not out) had cracked the returning Dimi Mascarenhas for two sixes in the opening over but Sohail Tanvir then dismissed Tom Westley, thanks to a smart low catch from Sean Ervine at slip in the second over.
Essex had made 18 for one when Chris Wood bowled one delivery of the third over before the players trooped off for the final time.
While it was frustrating for a capacity Chelmsford crowd at a ground renowned for its raucous atmosphere, White was philosophical.
And despite the improvements in the other sides challenging for the title, White is confident his Royals side can still compete.
He said: ‘It’s going to be a big challenge and we are going to have to play good cricket to get out of this group.
‘I think it’s getting tougher and tougher to do well in this competition.
‘You look at the Essex side on paper and they are very, very strong.
‘But you could say that about most sides in the group.
‘The South Group has usually been the toughest group to get out of and I think most people recognise that.
‘But I believe we are as strong as other sides and we can do well again.’
Mascarenhas returned to captain Hampshire after recovering from a back injury and White is hopeful there will be no further worries from the former England man.
He said: ‘Dimi is fit and fine.
‘He had a good few days of rehab and, fingers crossed, he is fine now.
‘It was good to have him back and it was just a shame that we couldn’t get the game in.
‘I thought we would get some sort of a game but, sadly, it wasn’t to be.
‘It’s not ideal for anyone.
‘There were a lot of people here, we fancied our chances but there’s not much you can do about it.
‘We take a point and it might be an important one at the end of the competition.’
With Hampshire not in action again until next Friday’s Friends Life t20 trip to Sussex, it’s a chance for a rare break.
White said: ‘We’ve got a break now but is that good or would we rather continue playing?
‘You can argue it both ways.
‘We’ve got some tough phases in the schedule to come so we will have a break for a few days, get back into some practice at the end of the week and we will be ready for Sussex next Friday.’