James Vince: "It's A Big Winter Ahead"

The Hampshire captain reflects on a truncated 2020 season and looks at the improvements required to achieve success in 2021

This summer has been like no other in Hampshire’s history, and after a truncated season which saw five red-ball fixtures and 10 Vitality Blast clashes, the final chapter to the 2020 campaign has been written.

It’s been a testing year for James Vince’s side, with wet weather and a Zak Crawley century thwarting hopes of reaching the inaugural Bob Willis Trophy final, and a difficult Vitality Blast competition in September rounding off a testing summer, despite a stunning record haul from Shaheen Afridi in the final fixture.

An incredible finish from Afridi in the curtain-closer against Middlesex – one which saw him claim four wickets in four balls and return Hampshire’s best ever T20 bowling figures – was something captain Vince recognises as a positive end to a frustrating season.

“The performance in our final game had been long overdue and Shaheen finished brilliantly.

“It doesn’t really make up for the performances that we’ve put in, particularly in the T20 competition over the last few weeks, but it was nice to finish on some sort of a high.

“The results haven’t been through a lack of hard work and the guys have been giving their all training when we can and doing everything to win.”

Given the side’s significant success in the shortest form of the game over the last decade, the results from this year’s shortened T20 campaign in particular has offered Vince an opportunity to reflect on what’s needed moving forward.

“We had some good success three or four years ago as a one-day side where we won trophies and made finals days consistently. We probably haven’t gone forward as individuals or as a side from then so when we can get in this winter training, however that looks, it’s about people taking account for their own games and trying to get better.

“Where we were leading the way in white-ball cricket, we’ve been caught up and overtaken I feel so it’s important that we use this winter well and to get better. Although we can’t practice match situations, it’s a big winter ahead.”

The arrival of COVID-19 followed by the subsequent government restrictions on attending sporting events has meant the club have sadly been unable to welcome Members and supporters this year.

The club’s efforts to provide an enhanced live match streaming service across a range of channels has allowed fans to view the action from home, but their absence has been felt throughout this unique summer, no more so than by the Hampshire squad.

“Although there’s been no fans in the ground this summer, our Members and fans are hugely important and we want to get wins for them and ourselves as well.

“Hopefully we’re back playing in front of them next summer having made further progress both as individuals and as a side.”

Despite a tough close to the summer, there were no doubt a number of positives to take from the Bob Willis Trophy campaign in particular, one which saw Arundel become home throughout August due to the Ageas Bowl's selection to host England's bio-secure international series'.

Mason Crane (14 wickets at 13.57), Ian Holland (17 wickets at 17.47) and Joe Weatherley (263 runs at 43.83) all impressed throughout the competition, whilst James Fuller became the 15th player to take a hat-trick for Hampshire in a thrilling victory against Surrey.

Three first-class debutants also burst onto the scene in the form of Scott Currie, Ajeet Dale and Tom Scriven, the trio each making valuable contributions.

Youth became a prominent theme throughout this season, highlighted no more so than during the final red-ball fixture of the summer when the average age of the side was just 23.5.

“It was certainly a slightly more positive four-day campaign. I think guys had opportunities at the start of the season who we wouldn’t have necessarily envisaged having opportunities, so there’s some real positives there for sure.

“The young guys that did come in will have realised how tough it is, even more so during this year’s T20 campaign, but it was good to see their performances in the Bob Willis Trophy and they will have a good idea heading into this winter what’s required next season.

“It’s down to the more experienced guys to be consistent and these younger guys to hopefully show some potential at this stage, before growing to go on become regulars and senior players. We’re all looking forward to seeing how they progress moving forward.”

With the sun now set on an unique 2020 summer, there is hope that strong performances and significant successes lie ahead to be shared and enjoyed with Members and supporters alike in 2021.

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