HAMPSHIRE coach Dale Benkenstein has backed his players to qualify for the One-Day Cup quarter-finals - by winning their last four group games.
Northamptonshire, one of only two teams below Hampshire in Group A, visit the Ageas Bowl tonight hoping to inflict a fourth defeat in five games on Jimmy Adams’ side.
Should they do so Hampshire really would be up against it ahead of their remaining three games; at home to Worcestershire on Monday, at Essex on Wednesday followed by Yorkshire’s visit on August 21. Hampshire won county cricket’s last 50-over competition in 2009.
And Benkenstein, who captained Durham to victory against Shane Warne’s Hampshire in the 50-over Friends Provident Trophy final in 2007, believes the class of 2014 has what it takes to reach the county’s fifth Lord’s final in ten seasons.
He said: “We’ve got a team that can win this one. To keep pulling victories out of the hat every day is not possible but we can win four out of four if we up our game.
“It’s going to be a tough ask. To get up for this [competition] has been slightly tricky, the change of format with all the restrictions takes a few games to get used to and we haven’t started fantastically.
“But it doesn’t mean we can’t pick it up. We’re not far off and we’ve got the all-round team to do it at this time of year, including two of the best spin bowlers in the country in one-day cricket.”
Benkenstein has taken encouragement from the performance against Leicestershire, who chased down a revised Duckworth-Lewis target of 186 in 25 overs courtesy of a six-laden Niall O’Brien hundred.
“We did really well to get 275, the wicket was stopping and turning and, had the game been a 50-over game, they’d have still needed another 175, even with someone getting a hundred, which would have been really tough to get,” he said.
Frustratingly for Hampshire, their spin trio – Danny Briggs, Liam Dawson and Will Smith – did not get to bowl in the same conditions in which Leicestershire’s twirlers took six of the first seven wickets to fall.
Heavy rain during the interval was a major influence on the game. “The conditions would really have suited our attack but the rain nullified that, which was frustrating,” said Benkenstein.
“We fought really hard and had a chance going into the last over but a really good knock was the difference between the teams.”
Sean Terry’s 63 was the major plus and he retains his place in an unchanged side this afternoon (2pm start).
He is sure to bat higher than No. 7 this time as Adam Wheater is suspended for the next two games following his show of dissent on being given out caught behind against Leicestershire (Matt Coles received a reprimand for “abuse of cricket ground, equipment or fixtures/fittings”). “Sean’s had that frustration of missing out with a broken arm when he probably would have had an opportunity but he’s been desperate to play, he’s always been asking when his opportunity’s going to come,” said Benkenstein.
“For me that shows really good character because he isn’t overawed by taking the step up.
“And looking at his history, every time he’s played in the first team he’s played pretty well.”
Hampshire: Adams, Carberry, Dawson, Smith, Ervine, Terry, Coles, Bates, Wood, Briggs, Tomlinson.