This weekend, they have the opportunity to cap a remarkable turnaround in the 2022 edition’s knockouts. Tonight, they face Manchester Originals at the Ageas Bowl for a place in tomorrow’s final against Trent Rockets at Lord’s.
Many of the same players remain, including captain Eoin Morgan and spinner Mason Crane, who believes that confidence brought by a good start, with a tight win over Oval Invincibles, has been key to the change.
“Last year, we had one washout, we won one, were thrashed in one and lost five really close games,” he tells Standard Sport. “We lost a lot and came bottom, but I didn’t feel we were a million miles off.
“This year, we’ve had England guys like Dan Lawrence and Zak Crawley around more, and our overseas players, like Glenn Maxwell and Kieron Pollard, fired while they were here. Not a whole lot has changed, we’re just carrying more confidence.”
One change was not planned. It was, for Spirit, a year that began with the tragedy of head coach Shane Warne’s death. That brought Morgan and England’s World Cup-winning coach Trevor Bayliss together.
“They have a relaxed nature, letting everyone do their thing, free to perform at their best,” adds Crane. “They are a dream team and it’s fun to play under them. It’s no surprise seeing them up close that they had so much success with England.”
Crane is one of the players benefiting most from the duo’s confidence. He has 10 wickets (behind only Jordan Thompson’s 14), and is one of five Hampshire bowlers in the squad, handy given the venue for tonight’s Eliminator.
“Trev said at the start, ‘always keep attacking, try to get wickets’,” says Crane. “Morgs is a tactician, always reading the game, moving pieces of the jigsaw around. Sometimes I’ve bowled early, sometimes late. With Morgs, it always feels right. He’s an amazing captain in more ways than one. It’s fun to come on and have that trust.
“The Ageas suits our attack and we know the conditions. It’s going to feel as much of a home game as it can away from Lord’s, and gives us a chance to play at our other home ground tomorrow.”
We mentioned at the start of the tournament that we were going to play in honour of Warney
As a Hampshire legend, Warne would have revelled in leading Spirit at the Ageas. “We mentioned at the start of the tournament that we were going to play in honour of him, in the sense of playing the game the way he would have wanted,” says Crane, for whom Warne became a mentor.
“It’s one of our common goals in the background, the knowledge that Warney would have loved this season. A big knockout game, especially at the Ageas, we would have loved to have him around. It will mean slightly more than just playing in another game.”