2008 County Preview - Hampshire
Hampshire begin the 2008 season in the top flight of the County Championship for the fourth consecutive season, although they will be looking to contest for only their third title after challenging the winners closely in each of the last three seasons. Captain Shane Warne will probably feel it’s his teams turn to collect the title after placing second, third and fifth over the last three seasons. Last year’s challenge fell
away with a loss to Kent followed by a draw with Yorkshire on the last day; better results in those two matches would have seen a totally different climax to the title race.
Warne has announced he will miss the start of the season due to poker and IPL commitments, meaning he might miss several games during the season to honour his deal World Series of Poker, meaning Hampshire are sure to miss his influence and leadership on the pitch as captain, as well as his wicket-taking ability as a world class spinner.
Hampshire came close to claiming the Friends Provident Trophy last year for the second time in three years, the club finished top of a difficult southern group, only recording one loss before coming through a tricky tie with Warwickshire at the Rose Bowl in the semi-finals. This led to only their third final appearance in the competitions history. The Hampshire Hawks were blown away by a strong Durham performance
recording a loss of 125 runs, meaning they had to settle for the runners up position.
The county find themselves in a different group in the FPT this year as the competition has been revised over the close season by the ECB.
The Hawks will be competing against Gloucestershire, Somerset, Glamorgan and Worcestershire this year with the top two going through to the quarter finals. The county struggled in last year’s Twenty20 Cup finishing bottom of the southern group, only registering one win. They clearly missed captain Warne who opted out of the competition. The club will be looking to consolidate their position in the top flight of the Pro40 this season after a respectable finish last year.
The club maybe without some key figures this year, Stuart Clark will not return and coupled with former England spinner Shaun Udal’s departure to Middlesex the bowling attack is sure to be weaker in the coming season, despite the signing of Shane Bond. Dimitri Mascarenhas’ talents seem to be getting recognised by the England selectors and his participation in the county season is sure to be reduced after his heroics over the last 12 months with the national side.
The Hawks will be hoping former England batsman John Crawley can continue to defy the years and provide the club with some vital runs in the coming season and the 35-year-old will be awarded a benefit year during 2008. Nic Pothas and Michael Carberry will have high expectations lumped on them in the coming season, especially after the latter impressed during the England Lions tour of India during the winter.
In: Shane Bond, Shane Watson
Out: Shaun Udal, Stuart Clark,
James Bruce, Mitchell Stokes
County Championship Division One: 5th
Pro40 Division One: 7th
Friends Provident Trophy: Quarter Finals
Twenty20 Cup: Group Stage
Star Man: Shane Warne
Top Tip: Michael Carberry/Nic Pothas
By Richard Reardon