Every cup final marks an ending. But that will be particularly true when Somerset meet Hampshire at Lord’s on Saturday.
The game will herald the end of Royal London One-Day Cup finals being held at Lord’s - Trent Bridge has the staging rights to the next five finals, from 2020 onwards.
The biggest shift, though, is much more than just symbolic. From next year, the One-Day Cup, which can claim to have been the nursery for England’s one-day revolution, will be downgraded to a “developmental competition”, as Gordon Hollins, the new managing director of county cricket, recently admitted.
The One-Day Cup will run at the same time as the new Hundred. And so the One-Day Cup will effectively become the preserve of failed Hundred players.
Against this backdrop, the last final of its ilk rather deserved better than to compete with World Cup warm-up matches, including England against Australia.
And it deserved better than for Hampshire to lose two of their best players - James Vince and Liam Dawson - for their title defence because, under World Cup rules, they are not allowed to play any cricket after the squads have been finalised.
Yet, for all these gripes, there is still reason to believe that this year’s final may just produce a worthy denouement to the competition in its current guise.
Like many of the best finals, this will be a clash of contrasts. Hampshire, the champions in 2018, are bidding for their fifth title in 15 seasons, a testament to the focus the club have long afforded white ball cricket and the depth of their squad.
Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw would probably both be featuring in the World Cup for South Africa were they not Kolpak players.
Home-grown players Mason Crane, who played in the last Test between England and Australia and has been rejuvenated this season, and 23-year-old keeper-batsman Tom Alsop, who has scored two centuries as an opener in the tournament, may yet play in a future World Cup.
Alsop might need an encore with Vince and South Africa’s Aiden Markram both absent: the two shared 975 runs at an average of 65 apiece in the competition.
While Hampshire have won copious trophies in recent years, Somerset are familiar with the anguish of coming second. Astoundingly, they have finished runners-up 10 times in all competitions since their last trophy, the T20 Cup in 2005.
A well-balanced team, marrying the belligerence of Tom Banton with the nous of Azhar Ali and James Hildreth, and a raft of impressive home-grown seamers, informs Somerset’s faith that, finally, their contribution to the county game will be reflected in another trophy.
The final may well foreshadow the County Championship tussle still to come. After four of the 14 rounds in Division One, Somerset are top, with Hampshire two points behind in second place. The margins could be equally fine at Lord’s.