By Rob Barnett
James Vince was 2014’s leading LV= County Championship run-scorer but he says the man that made Hampshire’s promotion possible was Kyle Abbott, a seamer who played just over half their games.
Vince was the only player to top 1,500 championship runs, helping Hampshire to the Division Two title after two seasons when the county were tipped for promotion but did not go up.
The 23-year-old member of the England Performance Programme believes South Africa international Abbott was the leader of the attack that Hampshire lacked in the previous two terms.
Abbott took 36 wickets at an average of 20.33 in his nine matches for Jimmy Adams’ side during the first half of the campaign.
That left Hampshire second in Division Two when Abbott’s championship spell ended, a position they improved in the last week of the season by usurping Worcestershire.
Unbelievably pround of the boys in Cardiff !!! @hantscricket special to be part of that
— Kyle Abbott (@Kyle_Abbott87) September 25, 2014
Since winning the league last Thursday, Hampshire have secured Australia bowler Jackson Bird for the first three months of next term, reflecting the importance of seam bowling in the early stage of the season.
Speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk, Vince said: “We’ve signed Jackson Bird for the first part of next year. I’m sure he’ll have a big influence next year as Kyle Abbott had this year for us.
“I think the difference between this year and previous years is we had a high-class seam bowler, which did probably make the difference at times.
“But everyone in the squad played their part at different tines so it was a good effort from everyone.”
Only James Tomlinson and Matt Coles claimed more championship wickets for Hampshire than Abbott and the English duo made a combined 31 appearances across the 16 games.
Tomlinson’s six scalps last Thursday finished off hosts Glamorgan, secured promotion and made Hampshire champions.
Victory inside three days was a dramatic turnaround from lunch on day one when Adams’ team were 91 for five and their promotion rivals Essex had skittled Worcestershire for 84.
“It was good in the end. At lunchtime on day one when Essex had Worcester all out and we were five down ourselves it wasn’t looking so certain,” said Vince, whose 225-run stand with fellow centurion Sean Ervine rescued Hampshire.
“Thankfully myself and Slug had a pretty important partnership there and the fact that Essex beat Worcester meant we went up as champions.”
Vince’s rearguard 144 at the SWALEC Stadium was his favourite among four championship tons this year, even though his 240 versus Essex in June was Hampshire’s highest score of 2014.
Asked which was his most special innings, Vince replied: “The one in the last game; because of the position we were in that was the most rewarding.”
Vince’s 1,525 championship runs, which came at a stunning average of 76.86, were 424 more than the previous year, a breakthrough season for the talented right-hander whose batting is often likened to that of former England captain Michael Vaughan.
“Last year I was happy with the way things went. It was my first consistent year in four-day cricket. It was nice to get some runs on the board again and contribute to the team going up,” he modestly added.
“Looking back now, I’m pretty happy the way things went [this season]. We set out a goal at the start of the year to make our main aim getting back to Division One. It’s nice to achieve that.”
Vince thinks Hampshire should set modest targets for next term when he will further press his claims for senior international selection, possibly after a winter tour with England Lions.
“I guess the real test will be next year when we are playing in Division One,” he reflected.
“We’ve got a group of guys who I think are capable of succeeding in Division One.
“I don’t think we’ll set our sights too high for next year. First and foremost just get through the first year, stay in that league and see how we start of the year really.”
What a great day pic.twitter.com/7XUNygzyRv
— James Vince (@vincey14) September 25, 2014
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