How a Swansea City cult hero has helped Hampshire Cricket’s run to the Metro Bank One-Day Cup knockout stages

Swansea City legend Michu has been an integral part of Hampshire’s run to the Metro Bank One-Day Cup knockout stages.
Former Swansea City star Michu, left, has provided Hampshire's One-Day Cup wicket celebration. Picture: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)Former Swansea City star Michu, left, has provided Hampshire's One-Day Cup wicket celebration. Picture: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Swansea City star Michu, left, has provided Hampshire's One-Day Cup wicket celebration. Picture: Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

The Spanish cult hero, who memorably scored 28 times in two Premier League seasons for the Swans, hasn’t joined the coaching staff, turned his arm over or even communicated with anyone at the Ageas Bowl.

But he has provided the team’s wicket celebration – a kind of turning motion with the hand about six inches from the ear.

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Swansea native and fan Aneurin Donald explains: “Michu is a legend across the game but certainly from a Swansea fan’s perspective. As a Swansea boy born and bred, it is something I’m glad to see the boys get into.

“I think it stemmed from the likes of Scott Currie and Tom Prest watching some Premier League Years on Sky Sports and Michu had dug out a few goals in the episode they were watching just before the competition started.

“It has become a little bit of fun introduced to the team and it is nice to have a team celebration.

“Hopefully it isn’t too much in people’s faces and over the top but it is certainly something we get a laugh and a kick about. Little things like that and the ‘Paul Nixon Clap’ that give us more togetherness.”

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Despite harassing Michu on social media, there is still no clue what the man himself thinks about Hampshire’s exciting One Day Cup campaign.

“We have tagged him in a few posts so hopefully he can pop out of hiding and say how much he enjoys some long-format cricket!” joked Donald.

The ‘Michu’ is just one aspect that highlights the fun Hampshire have had in the competition.

Hampshire eased through the group stage, eventually finishing behind Leicestershire on net run rate, with seven wins from eight matches, all with wide smiles on their faces.

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They are now preparing to host Worcestershire in a quarter-final on Sunday, with the winners travelling to face Warwickshire at Edgbaston next Tuesday. A Trent Bridge final takes place on September 16.

“Adi [Birrell] has been saying this One Day Cup has been one of his favourite parts of his career,” said Donald.

“All those guys who have played a million games like Nick Gubbins, Keith Barker, Ian Holland and Ben Brown, you can see it in their faces how much they enjoy this time of year and really lean into this competition.

“That is reflected in the way we play, how we’ve done and the smiles on their faces.

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“Last year we showed our fight and togetherness as a group, and while that has come to the fore again we are now bossing games and dominating more often than not.”

Much of that glee has come from seeing 17-year-olds Dom Kelly and Eddie Jack star, while 19-year-old Joe Eckland’s half-century further shone a light on the county’s pathway success story.

“It is important to recognise the work Charlie [Freeston] and Tommo [James Tomlinson] do with the pathways and academy,” said Donald, while highlighting how many players Hampshire lost to the Hundred. “They have been pumping out player after player.

“As players, we are really pleased to see how our young guys stack up against the other young guys across the country.

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“In my opinion, we are producing some of the best out there. That is reflected in them winning first-team games.”

For Donald, the One-Day Cup had been a frustration of starts before he exploded with his maiden white-ball century on the Isle of Wight against Kent Spitfires.

“It was nice to get a big one, said Donald of his destructive 73-ball 106. “I’ve been feeling good but just haven’t got past a start.”

Anyone who has watched Donald in full flow can attest that his style of batting is among the most exciting on the county circuit – but by his own admission, those bar-emptying innings need to become more regular.

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“It has been a target of my game to get in after a start more consistently,” Donald, who is out of contract next season, said. “If I can do that then the big scores will come more regularly, but that is always the challenge.

“Consistency is ultimately the key as a batter. For me I have always had the ability to get those big scores and match-winning knocks, it is just how often I do it. That is what makes you valuable to the team.

“There is a chance I won’t be as consistent as a different type of player. My USP has been to break games open and play innings that not many other people can.

“I haven’t got those scores as often as I’d have liked in my career. That is why it was so special to tick that box and get the monkey off my back.”