JAMES Vince feels Hampshire have made ‘strides in the right direction’ this season as they target their highest Championship finish since 2008.
The county will finish third if they beat Kent at Canterbury in their final first class fixture of the year starting tomorrow.
And Vince thinks a top-three placing would underline Hampshire’s improvements in red-ball cricket this season.
He said: “We are in a great position to finish third. We have it in our hands.
“I feel like we have made strides in the right direction this season. Adi (coach Adi Birrell) has focussed on a few points and one of them is becoming hard to beat when we are up against it.
‘In the past, we maybe have folded over a little bit so we have found a way of digging deep and getting into games.
‘The Somerset game was a perfect example of that.’
Indeed it was, as Hampshire recovered from 23-5 on the first morning - and 10-3 in their second innings - to seriously dent Somerset’s title chances at the Ageas Bowl last week.
Vince is ending the season in top form having struck an incredible 59-ball 91 against Surrey and a first Championship century (142) of the campaign against Somerset.
And the England batsman has revealed that on-field battles have helped motivate him to score runs.
‘Both in the Somerset and Surrey games I feel like I have got into the contest a bit more,’ Vince explained.
‘Against Surrey, I got into a few words with Rikki Clarke, nothing major, but I also got into a couple of their guys (Somerset). It seemed to get me going.
‘I haven’t played a lot of red-ball cricket this summer so it was very pleasing to get my first century.
‘This time of year can be tough if there isn’t a lot to play for but as I am pretty fresh it has made me up for it.’
Hampshire will select from a 12-man squad at Canterbury, with seam bowler Ryan Stevenson added to the XI who beat Somerset.
Five of the leading top 10 wicket-takers in the top flight this summer will be facing each other over the next few days.
Hampshire’s attack will be spearheaded by Kyle Abbott (second highest, 68 wickets) and Fidel Edwards (ninth, 43 wickets).
But Kent pair Matt Milnes (fourth, 55 wickets) and Harry Podmore (sixth, 51 wickets) will aim to make inroads into a Hampshire top order which twice flopped against Somerset.
In addition, evergreen Darren Stevens is the seventh highest wicket-taker in Division 1 with 50 wickets.