Kyle Abbott set for Hampshire return – but fellow overseas signing Mo Abbas still waiting for a visa
Kyle Abbott will make his first Hampshire appearance since September 2019 in this week’s opening pre-season friendly.
The South African pace bowler has remarkably only played three one-day games since his last county appearance in September 2019.
He appeared in two Sri Lanka Premier League T20 matches last December and one Momentum Cup 50-over game in January.
But the 33-year-old will get the chance to blow away some cobwebs during the two-day friendly against Northants at The Ageas Bowl starting on Thursday.
That is one of just two pre-season games before the big County Championship curtain-raiser against Leicestershire at Grace Road on April 8.
Hampshire’s other friendly is against cross-border rivals Sussex at The Ageas Bowl starting on April 1. That game was due to be played at Hove but has been switched due to a leatherjacket bug infection at the The 1st Central County Ground.
While Abbott prepares for a return to match action, Hampshire are still waiting for their second overseas signing - Mohammad Abbas - to fly into England.
The Pakistan international seam bowler’s arrival has been delayed while he waits for a visa.
‘It should be sorted soon,’ said Hampshire director of cricket Giles White.
‘Until he turns up we’ll be slightly nervous, as there have been visa problems before.
‘But at the moment we’re expecting him in time for the Leicestershire game.’
Hampshire will probably use ‘13 or 14’ players against Sussex before narrowing the squad down slightly for Sussex’s visit.
Seam bowler Keith Barker, who had a knee operation last year, won’t feature but is hopeful of taking part against Sussex.
Liam Dawson, who missed virtually the entire county season in 2020 due to international commitments and a serious Achilles injury, will play against Northants.
Aneurin Donald, who missed the whole of last summer after an ACL operation, is another who is fully recovered and raring to go again.
Given the limitations brought about by the pandemic, White is happy enough with Hampshire’s preparations so far.
‘We have been training outdoors for the last few weeks, we’ve been lucky with the weather - that’s been key as we’ve not been able to go abroad this year.
‘The wickets have been outstanding, the groundsman has done a great job.
‘Everything’s heading in the right direction - now we need to get some good prep in.’
Last year, shorn of Abbott, Dawson, Donald, James Vince and Fidel Edwards for most of the truncated season, Hampshire blooded a succession of youngsters.
Ajeet Dale, Scott Currie, Harry Came and Tom Scriven were all handed Bob Willis Trophy chances to impress.
Seamers Brad Wheal and Ryan Stevenson - plagued by injury in recent years - were also given playing time.
‘The young lads are all pushing for places and opportunities but it’s going to be harder to get a place in the team this year,’ warned White.
Due to the pandemic, there was no 2nd XI cricket in 2020 but a full programme has been arranged for this year. Under coach Jimmy Adams, their first friendly is against Exeter University on The Ageas Bowl’s Nursery Ground on April 1 followed by a T20 double header against Dorset on Monday, April 12.
Northants’ players only took part in their first outdoor nets last Thursday – the first time the squad had been together as whole since the final game of last season.
Batsman Ricardo Vasconcelos is philosophical about the problems brought on by a life in lockdown.
‘It is all down to individuals, and making the best of a bad situation really,’ he said when asked if Northants’ preparations will be sufficient.‘Everybody has been in the same boat, and it is going to just be about who has made the best of it.’
Northants are making their first non List A appearance at The Ageas Bowl since September 2013. Back then, the hosts recovered from 32-4 in their first innings to post 438 thanks mainly to 221 from Robert Keogh. In reply, Jimmy Adams compiled 218 as Hampshire rattled up 545 in what proved to be a drawn Championship encounter.