Overnight we stayed overlooking The Ageas Bowl, our nationwide fame earning us the right to Room 1. We were in anticipation of the fourth day’s play of Hampshire vs Durham, the away side looking to force a win in order to maintain their title challenge. Since Hampshire, our hosts, needed points desperately to avoid relegation, it was poised to be an absolute thriller.
Nonetheless, we were astounded to discover that ticket prices for the fourth day’s play were an extravagant £21. To put that in context, Lord’s in London only charges £5 for the final day and depending on the position of the game, may let you in for free. Considering the number of paying spectators could not have numbered more than 80, it seemed insulting and financially unnecessary to exploit the fans in such a way.
However, once entering the ground we soon forgot the exorbitant prices as the hugeness of the Ageas Bowl loomed in front of us. The ground may not inspire an emotional connection as Taunton or Hove does, but it strikes you as a truly magnificent place to watch cricket. The stands beneath the media centre are open stands, and it creates a relaxing and spacious feel when watching the game.
The morning resembled more of a T20 than an LVCC game, with Mark Stoneman bludgeoning his way to an 88 which included two massive sixes as Durham looked to quickly set a target in order to give themselves time to bowl out Hampshire. Whilst Scott Borthwick’s wicket halted the pace of the charge, Paul Collingwood ended it in a flurry, his 29 off 22 reminding the crowd of his former England days. Durham declared half an hour before lunch, allowing Chris Rushworth time to remove Michael Carberry first ball with a jaffa and hand him (after much calculation) a hat-trick across two innings and three overs.
The day got worse for Hampshire after lunch, the underrated Chris Rushworth ripping through their top order which saw Durham take 4/7 in three overs. Joe Gatting, Gareth Berg and Will McManus then succeeded where Hampshire’s top order had failed, leading a mini-recovery to guide their team safely to a lengthy rain delay. With nine overs lost, and an early tea taken, the game’s end was set up for a thriller, with the away side requiring three wickets in 18 overs in order to secure victory.
Durham dismissed two batsmen leaving them 5.2 overs in order to secure the final wicket, but they had not accounted for McManus who remained at the crease throughout. In only his second First Class Match, the 20-year-old youngster played resiliently, stepping up to the mark on the day that his team needed him most. If the relegation battle goes down to the wire, it will be the young McManus who they’ll be incredibly thankful to. It was befitting that he reached his maiden 50 off the final ball of the match, his efforts rewarded by raucous support from the crowd.
We now return home to London in order to visit the local counties in the next few days, and make it in time for the start of the fantastic Royal London One Day Cup.
A quick reminder: the aim of this trip is to raise money for Shooting Star Chase Hospice, Middlesex CCC’s official charity partner, who do tremendous work in bettering the lives of children and their families for kids with terminal illnesses. They need £9.5 million a year to maintain their brilliant service, and we would highly appreciate it if you could help them to continue their care, by donating here:
Or texting to 70070: RLOD50, followed by either £1, £2, £5 or £10.