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Kyle Abbott of Hampshire bowls

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The last domestic final played at Lord"s will not take place in September. There will be no sense of summer"s farewell, a last hurrah for careless heat before football recolonises sport. Such occasions belong to distant seasons, when Lancashire or Kent always seemed to be playing and St John"s Wood was packed with supporters making a weekend of it in what was still the big city.

But if, as most neutrals hope, Saturday"s Royal London game goes the distance in the manner of those fondly remembered BBC Saturdays, at least one player should know how to cope with the tension that became almost routine in the heyday of Jack Bond and Asif Iqbal.

Hampshire"s Kyle Abbott is used to the big occasion and having missed the whole of Hampshire"s triumphant Royal London Cup campaign last year because of an ankle problem he will be delighted to do more in 2019 than offer his support from cricket"s most famous balcony.

"Obviously I"m looking forward to it," he said. "Having missed out last year with a pretty silly injury, I was motivated a bit more towards helping the team to get to Lord"s this season. So yes, I"m pretty excited. I know the boys are up for it and the club certainly have a decent reputation when it comes to Lord"s finals."

But things have changed at the Ageas Bowl since Hampshire beat Kent last June. Former head coach Craig White left in October and has been replaced by Adi Birrell, an appointment Abbott sees as vital in the club"s development.

"There"s been a big mindset change and it"s one that"s been driven by the coach," he said. "The players have begged to be challenged and so Adi"s been telling us at the start of every session: "Right you guys have asked to be challenged. Well, we need wickets, we need to do this or do that."

"I don"t think it"s been a question of the lack of talent Hampshire have had over the years, I think there"s sometimes been a lack of direction. People say we"re professionals and we should know what to do but sometimes you get so involved and mentally tired that you need these reminders."

Fair enough, of course, but Hampshire"s players have been challenged in a way they almost certainly did not welcome this week following Liam Dawson"s selection in England"s World Cup squad. Despite representations being made to the ICC on the club"s behalf by the ECB both Dawson and James Vince will now be unavailable for the final.

"James and Liam have been huge in getting us to the final but so was Aiden Markram," said Abbott. "It"s quite strange that some players" first games in this year"s Royal London will be in the final but that provides an opportunity for those guys and I always feel that it"s a question of who holds their nerves on the day. I"d say it"s a 50-50 contest in finals.

"I think where Hampshire have the edge over Somerset is that we have been to a Lord"s final and to T20 Finals Day a lot more regularly than they have. That will help us on Saturday because suddenly for somebody the occasion will become bigger than it should be. Instead of Taunton they will be at Lord"s on a bigger stage and nerves show."

No one could accuse Abbott of being a spear carrier on the big stage - or, indeed, of being timid when it comes to the big decision. Although he has never played anything more than T20 cricket at Lord"s, he has represented South Africa in even bigger matches than that he will play on Saturday.

"When you are two-all against India in India and you have to go out to perform, that"s as big as it gets," he pointed out. "I"ve played in the quarter-final of the World Cup. That sort of occasion doesn"t bother me. It will make Lord"s a little bit more comfortable for me."

Kyle Abbott appeals for lbw Getty Images

Abbott"s reference to his career with South Africa and his obvious pride in his achievements when doing so only reinforces the magnitude of the choice he made in 2017 when he turned his back on international cricket and signed a Kolpak deal with Hampshire. Making that call was all the more difficult given that after a stuttering start his Test career appeared to be flourishing.

But Abbott was convinced his place was secure only because Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel were unfit and he had already been omitted from a World Cup semi-final, some suggested for partly political reasons, in favour of Vernon Philander. Many cricketers might claim that having made such the decision to step away from the international game, they had filed the matter as "case closed", but Abbott is too honest for such self-deluding escapes.

"I do sometimes think what might have been and from the outset I"ve always said I made the decision six months too early," he said. "But I"d rather have been six months too early than six months too late. Had I waited, I would have played in the Champions Trophy and I would have played in the England Test series in 2017.

"But things became very clear straight after that series when South Africa toured Bangladesh. Dale Steyn was straight back in the side and then Morne Morkel was straight back in. That"s what I kept telling people. They said, "You"re going to have a run now," but I replied, "No, you don"t understand how this works."

"The convenor of selectors said Steyn and Morkel would have to prove themselves in first-class cricket but I said: "They won"t. They are world-class bowlers and they"ll come straight back in." And they did come in. I knew international cricket and I could read their minds from a mile off. I do miss international cricket. Even a Lord"s final is not going to replicate an international match but I"m proud of the cricket I played for South Africa in those four years, the games I played in, the wickets I took."

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