Ervine: This is the strongest squad I have seen during my time at Hampshire
Sean Ervine believes Hampshire's squad is the strongest he's seen during his 12 years at the club.
The Ageas Bowl outfit kick-off their season against Yorkshire at Headingley tomorrow (11am).
And the 34-year-old all-rounder insists his side have County Championship division one title ambitions.
Hampshire endured a torrid time last summer.
They finished second bottom only to avoid relegation when Durham’s financial woes were punished.
Despite being under threat of the drop for the most of the campaign, Ervine believes the root of the problem was a long Ageas Bowl injury list.
Hampshire have recruited several new faces during the winter, including South African international duo Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw.
Michael Carberry also returns to action after being diagnosed with cancer last season.
He scored a century in Hampshire’s warm-up match against Cardiff MCCU at the Ageas Bowl earlier this week, which ended in a draw.
Ervine has set his standards high for the season and reckons Hampshire can push for the division one title.
‘The recruitment is absolutely a statement of intent,’ said the former Zimbabwe international.
‘We have really boosted our squad to hopefully push and contend for the Championship.
‘We had a two-day game between us and it is probably the best inter-squad game I have been in since being at the club.
‘We all said last year was a year no county would ever have encountered with all the injuries – we were in double figures at one point.
‘It was a freakish year nobody wants to look back on.
‘We have got to create a solid start. We haven’t done that for the last eight or nine years. From there, we can push on.’
Ervine has represented Hampshire alongside one of the best players to ever grace the game – legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne.
Youngster Mason Crane created a huge impression during the winter in Australia and has been linked with an Ashes call-up this summer.
The 20-year-old leg-spinner was picked to represent New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield – the first overseas player for the state since Imran Khan in 1984-85.
Having graced the field with Warne, Ervine believes Crane could go on to become an England international.
He added: ‘Mason could easily go all the way.
‘He could have a 10-year Test career if all goes to plan.
‘I’ve been lucky enough to field at first slip to Warney and the ball comes out very similar.
‘He gives it a good rip. I think Warney is going to try to work with him. There’s a lot of talent and potential.’