Youth investment pays off for Hampshire at Rose Bowl
Hampshire’s Twenty20 triumph not only was a traditional underdog performance but also a wonderful victory of youth over experience.
With the ECB releasing centrally contracted England players, Essex and Nottinghamshire immediately opted to draft them into their starting line-ups.
The south coast county turned down the tantalising opportunity to select Kevin Pietersen and stuck with four products of their strong youth academy.
Captain Dominic Cork explained that it was the “Club’s policy” to stick with the players who had taken Hampshire to the final.
Danny Briggs, James Vince, Chris Wood and Michael Bates all featured in the trophy-winning side and have all worked their way through the Hampshire’s youth system -a fantastic pay-out to the county after years of investment.
However, by selecting players released by England, Nottinghamshire and Essex effectively turned their backs on those who ultimately secured their places in the finals. It showed a distinct lack of faith.
Although out-of-form England opener Alastair Cook made good runs, West India’s Dwayne Bravo appeared to disrupt the balance of the side.
Captain James Foster, however, was quick to defend the club’s decision to recruit Bravo, describing him as an “internationally proved performer” and instead blamed the loss of “conservative wickets” rather than the squad changes.
The temptation was also too much for Nottinghamshire, who brought both Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad into their starting line-up. Alex Hales, who has opened for the Outlaws in the competition this year, was ousted to number three as Swann was slotted into his opening spot.
Leading wicket taker Darren Pattinson was replaced by Broad much to the apparent delight of Marcus Trescothick who played a large part in the England bowler’s disastrous spell of four overs for 44.
With such major changes to the make up of both sides, it was no surprise that Hampshire and Somerset -with their selection continuity -made it through to the final.
A chaotic finale to Hampshire’s innings eventually saw scores tied with the Royals winning by losing five wickets to Somerset’s seven.
The performances from Hampshire’s younger members during the final two matches -as well as the whole campaign -have been absolutely crucial. James Vince, a former England U19, led Hampshire past Warwickshire in the quarter-finals and has been ever present at three whilst Michael Bates has kept superbly, filling the void left by the absence of Nic Pothas
Left arm spinner Danny Briggs has made the biggest impact and was integral as Hampshire’s only spinner. With 31 wickets and such a low economy rate it is no surprise that so many are tipping him for the top. In the wake of the first semi-final Foster gave credit to Briggs, labelling him a “big talent”.
Not many expected to see Dominic Cork lift the Twenty20 cup on Saturday yet Hampshire’s policy of youth prevailed in the most complete fashion. The former England man was full of praise for his team and highlighted the mature and crucial performances by his young stars throughout the season.