‘We need to turn performances into wins’ – Hampshire aiming to avoid finishing bottom of T20 Blast group
Hampshire have three matches left in a bid to avoid finishing bottom of their T20 Blast qualifying group for the first time since 2007.
The county slumped to bottom spot on Monday after an eight-wicket hammering by Kent and Essex’s victory over Sussex.
James Vince’s side now face Essex at The Ageas Bowl on Wednesday (2pm) followed by further Ageas Bowl dates with Surrey on Friday and Middlesex on Sunday.
Monday’s defeat extended Hampshire’s dismal record in the shortest format.
For many years, they were one of the best T20 teams in England. They reached six successive Finals Days between 2010-2015 inclusive - lifting the title in 2010 and again two years later.
A seventh Finals Day appearance followed in 2017 – no county has ever reached more Finals Days - but since then it has been a tale of almost constant struggle.
Since the start of 2018, and including all Monday’s games, each of the 18 first class counties have played 35 T20 group matches.
In that period only Middlesex (21) have suffered more defeats than Hampshire’s 20.
Hampshire have only won eight of those 35 games, with two ties and five no results or abandonments.
Compare that record to the 2011 season, where Hampshire won 11 of their 16 group games, or 2013 (eight wins out of 10) and 2014 (nine out of 14).
‘We are out of it now but we have to show character and win the next one,’ said coach Adi Birrell after Zak Crawley’s unbeaten century had taken Kent to victory at The Ageas Bowl.
‘It is the third season in a row the T20s haven't been good but we have learnt a lot and we need to turn performances into wins.
‘Every game is an opportunity to do that.’
Defending champions Essex - the only team Hampshire have beaten so far - kept alive their fragile hopes of qualifying for the latter stages with a 12-run victory over Sussex on Monday.
Sussex, looking to make it five wins out of seven, were undone by a brutal innings of 81 off 44 balls from Dan Lawrence which was the basis of a challenging Essex total of 197-5.
Lawrence’s first 46 runs were made up entirely of boundaries.
Sussex rarely looked like getting there, Lawrence scooping a couple of wickets to derail the chase as the hosts finished on 185 for eight.
Hampshire, meanwhile, have had problems in both batting and bowling departments in the seven games they have played so far.
They have yet to bowl a side out - the most wickets they have taken in a game is six - and have found runs (and boundaries) hard to come by.
Mason Crane is the county’s leading wicket-taker with seven, but he conceded 50 runs off his four overs against Kent on Monday.
Pakistan seamer Shaheen Shah Afridi arrived with big expectations, but he has only taken one wicket at a cost of 134 runs. Hampshire have lost all four games he has played.
Batting wise, Tom Alsop is the county’s leading runscorer with 172 - but his 109.55 strike rate is lower than the 21 batsmen who have scored more in the tournament so far.
James Fuller possesses the highest Hampshire strike rate, with 170 runs at 144.06.
The all-rounder has struck the only two half-centuries of his 96-game T20 career this summer - an unbeaten 53 against Sussex at Hove off 31 balls (with five sixes) and an undefeated 50 against Kent on Monday off 23 balls (with four sixes).
Fuller leads the way in terms of sixes in 2020 with 10 - Joe Weatherley is next highest with four.
Hampshire have only cleared the ropes eight times in their last three games - Fuller providing half of the maximums against Kent.
Still, Birrell is looking for the positives amidst the gloom and declared himself ‘thrilled’ with the way Hampshire batted on Monday.
Their 182-6 total was their highest of the tournament so far, beating their 176 at Hove.
‘We haven't been batting well but I was thrilled with the way we batted and finished,’ said Birrell.
‘We asked them to be brave and play positively and even though we lost a wicket in the first over we rebuilt and accelerated towards the end.
‘I was disappointed after Lord's (Hampshire lost at Middlesex last Saturday after failing to chase 143 for victory) but I'm not too disappointed today where someone (Crawley) has outplayed us with a fabulous innings.
‘Sometimes you just have to doff your hat.
‘Full credit to him. He came out batting in a brave way playing proper cricket shots and it came off. It was a very good innings.’
How Hampshire could do with something similar against Essex on Wednesday ...