Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hampshire vs Gloucestershire: Comment

David Balcombe's 11/119 was the best figures of his career

Hampshire captain Jimmy Adams spoke before this season about laying building blocks for the future having assembled a young squad for the 2012 campaign with coach Giles White, and if those calls for patience and perseverance were to take the heat off the more junior members of the squad before the season opener against Gloucestershire at Ageas Bowl this weekend, then it very nearly worked!

David Balcombe, the tall right arm seamer who was out on loan at Kent last season, bowled with pace and accuracy to finish with career best figures of 11-119, a sterling effort, and one that almost set up victory against the team that suffered an innings defeat against Essex last week.

But Balcombe wasn't the only highlight. Chris Wood opened the bowling with him well and whilst not as explosive in this game as Balcombe, his ability with the bat makes him a valuable all-rounder to the side. His 65 in a century stand with Michael Bates in the second innings was assured and aggressive, and bodes well for his future at number 8.

Then there was Hamza Riazuddin. 6 no balls in a row in one first innings over notwithstanding, Riaz bowled a spell of 3-30 in the second innings that helped set up an improbable run chase of 290 for Hants, which they very nearly achieved.

Golden boy Danny Briggs was used sparingly, bowling only 8.1 overs, although he wrapped up the Gloucestershire innings with his first ball on the final day, the sign of a quality bowler. Hampshire coach Giles White wants green, pacey wickets here at the Ageas Bowl this season, Briggs told me as long as the team are taking wickets this season, he doesn't mind who gets them, but bit parts in such a pivotal season for the England hopeful would test even the most committed county cricketers loyalties.

Michael Bates played his first game as first choice wicket keeper and looked exceptional behind the stumps. Members of the press box at the Ageas Bowl  on Sunday talked glowingly of a 10 year old Bates that always looked capable of making a career in professional cricket, his glove work all game was exemplary and his 85 on the 4th afternoon, rescuing his side from 72/5 and taking them to within 46 of the target was a sign that he has the skill and the application to play at the highest level.

But Hants lost the game, and ironically enough it was the batsmen who failed, a batting line up supposedly so strong on paper. Adams, Dawson, Vince and Carberry all looked short of their best and in truth only a first innings 74 from the returning Simon Katich showed any kind of composure with the bat.

I went into the players area after the game and saw on the wall a picture of Michael Carberry and Neil McKenzie after their amazing 523 partnership against Yorkshire last season. If Hants can get their batting order firing like that again, with a hungry and exciting bowling attack which still has the injured James Tomlinson and Kabir Ali to return to, then Hampshire do have a genuine chance of success this season.

Based on this game though, it's going to be hard graft.
Tom Huelin for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomhue1

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