Hampshire edge ahead, but weather likely to have final say

Ian Holland, in just his fourth first-class game, swung the pendulum back in Hampshire’s favour with four wickets but rain would appear to be leading this well poised match toward a draw.

The 26-year-old, who made his way into cricket via the Australian reality series Cricket Superstar in 2012, had one Specsavers County Championship appearance under his belt before this week after playing against Warwickshire four weeks ago, where he took one wicket.

Today, in the solitary two hour session of play, he picked up a quartet of scalps to set in motion a horrific Somerset collapse that saw the visitors slide from 102-1 to 135-8.

“[It was a] funny, strange session of cricket,” said Holland at the close. “I thought all day, with the overhead conditions, that if there was anything there, it was going to be today and with getting to dusk, a bit of moisture around, I thought there was a good chance it could nip around a little bit and it did.

“It’s always good to contribute and to come into the side and do well is good. I don’t want to come in and feel like I’m dead weight.”

He began the charge by removing debutant Eddie Byrom for 43, chipped to George Bailey at mid off. The 20-year-old had looked comfortable for much of the afternoon and may prove a useful asset to Somerset’s current batting woes.

James Hildreth was trapped in front in Holland’s next over, and two overs later he picked up two in three balls. Finding a touch of away movement, both Tom Abell and Steven Davies edged to wicketkeeper Lewis McManus for ducks. In seven innings dating back to the reverse fixture, the Somerset trio have just two half-centuries between them. It’s not difficult to see why they have just one score over 300 in that time.

Lewis Gregory struck one boundary and reached eight before taking on a non-existent single to Holland at backward point, and Somerset were six down. A ball later, Adam Hose, who had looked similarly well-set for much of the session, was struck on the pads by Gareth Berg’s first delivery back into the attack and departed for 48.

Just prior to the second interval, Craig Overton chipped Berg to midwicket to complete a collapse of 7-33 in 14.4 overs and turning a game it seemed impossible for Somerset to lose into one where a fifth defeat of the season is staring them in the face.

The only saving grace may be that the not-so-Great Great British weather could well have taken just enough time from the match to prevent a result.

After only 52 minutes of cricket was possible on the second day, more showers meant play began at 5.20pm today, with 62 overs scheduled. A subsequent shower pushed a resumption back to 8.30pm, but further rain just as the players were about to come back on saw the close of play called.

Regulations state that no overs are to be made up on the final day, and even with the forecast set fair, it might take something of a minor miracle for Hampshire to force victory.

Holland said: “I think there’s still a lot of time left and things can happen quickly as we saw so ideally, in a perfect world, we can get a nice lead and maybe have a look later in the day, give ourselves the option to have a look at having another crack. It’s very nice to be in the position that we are now.”

Craig White on the pink ball: “It doesn’t sound like a cricket ball”

Hampshire coach Craig White believes that the pink ball being used for this round of Specsavers County Championship fixtures still needs improving.

The Dukes ball, along with the day/night format, is being trialled ahead of England’s day/night Test against the West Indies in August.

At the close of play on the second day of his side’s match against Somerset, White expressed concerns based on what he had been told by his players.

He said: “I can just go with what the boys say and they say the ball does go soft. It doesn’t sound like a cricket ball, it sounds like an indoor ball when it hits the bat.

“It’s hard to time and it just feels very soft on the bat when you hit it.

“[There was a] little bit of swing. I think with the new pink ball, [it] did a little bit. Possibly a little bit more under lights last night but that’s about it.

“I’m not sure what it’s like for the spectators but I find it hard to follow along the ground. I guess the spectators feel the same about that, you don’t know where the ball’s going so that’s another thing to take into consideration.”

Only 13 overs were possible due to rain at The Ageas Bowl, with proceedings called for the day around 6:30pm. In that time, Somerset progressed from 18-0 to 43-1, Marcus Trescothick the one wicket to fall bottom edging onto his stumps after trying to late cut a ball too full and too straight from Gareth Berg.

20-year-old debutant Eddie Byrom made it to 13* partnered at the close by Adam Hose, promoted to three in just his second first-class match, who struck two boundaries and will resume tomorrow on 9*.

“I thought we bowled better this morning,” he said. “I thought they were bowling in decent areas.

“[I] don’t think we were bang on the money last night. We’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings [and try to] make sure we get our bowling points.

“I think [Somerset] bowled well, they bowled straight, didn’t give as much. We’ll have fairly similar plans, try and attack with the new ball while it’s still hard and then once it gets soft just try and control the scoreboard and chip away with the wickets.”

One concern of late for Hampshire is the form of Rilee Rossouw. He made a ten-ball duck on the opening day and now has just 34 runs in his last eight first-class innings, including five scores of nought.

White, however, isn’t concerned. He said: “We think he could bat for the club at number 3 for a long time. He just needs to get a start and I think he’ll be away. I’m sure he’s frustrated and we’re all feeling for him, but I’m sure he’ll come through it.”

Overton helps Somerset edge ahead on day one at the Rose Bowl

Craig Overton helped support his international hopes with two wickets as Somerset were rewarded for tight, testing bowling and emerged the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship encounter with Hampshire with the upper hand.

The 23-year-old, who was not included in England’s iT20 team against South Africa despite the promise of a debut from skipper Eoin Morgan, was superb and particularly in his first and second spells. Those bemused by the selectors’ decision will only have had fuel added to their fire.

He bowled with pace and found hints of movement with the pink ball – being used for the first time in this round of fixtures – accounting for Jimmy Adams and Rilee Rossouw.

Adams had put on 84 with fellow opener Liam Dawson having negotiated a tricky first session, in which first slip Marcus Trescothick was hit on the shoulder by an Adams edge that went very quickly.

Shortly after the first interval, Adams was squared up on 47 by a ball that just nipped away off the seam, edging Overton through to James Hildreth at first slip.

Rossouw attempted a pull in Overton’s next over but only skied it off the edge, Davies taking a good catch over his shoulder running back. The South African has five ducks in his last eight innings, scoring just 34 runs; Tom Alsop will play for Hampshire’s 2nd XI tomorrow, and is presumably next in line for number three.

As an experimental round to test the pink ball ahead of England’s day/night Test against the West Indies in September, it was certainly enlightening. It seamed early on before becoming more docile, only to cause issue once again just after the 50th over. Perhaps on a slightly livelier wicket, things might be different.

Dawson was the only man to pass 50, reluctant to play too extravagantly, striking just four boundaries but countering a dangerous attack well. Indeed, the ropes were rarely found with Hampshire going 24 overs without a boundary at one stage in the late afternoon.

He brought up his first half-century in the Championship this season with a push into the covers off Gregory, but the quick pinned him in front on 53 with a ball that kept low.

His opening spell had Adams in allsorts, seaming the ball dangerously and deserving of the opener’s wicket. Both Gareth Berg (lbw for 11) and Lewis McManus (clean bowled on 13 by one that jagged back) fell to Gregory late in the evening, his figures of 3-51 a much fairer reflection of his efforts than what might have been.

James Vince looked good for his 47, anchoring an innings that could very easily have collapsed far earlier than it ultimately did. Three of his four boundaries came in a single over, including a crisp cover drive and a lovely flick through midwicket.

Either side of the supper break, captain George Bailey came and went for just four, before Sean Ervine half-heartedly attempted to cut Jack Leach only to feather a bottom edge to Davies.

Vince departed in the spinner’s following over, attempting to tickle one behind but giving the wicketkeeper his third catch. Ian Holland went for a duck in the next over, his stumps scattered by a peach from Tim Groenewald that moved back sharply.

When McManus went, Hampshire were one short of a batting point. Kyle Abbott hit 13 and helped them to that milestone, before the hosts issued the first of presumably many funky pink ball declarations, leaving Somerset six overs to bat under the lights.

Berg and Abbott threatened the edge on a few occasions but Trescothick and debutant Edward Byrom were resolute, and will resume at the crease tomorrow with a platform to push their side into a strong position.

Vince and Alsop take Hants to one-day victory

James Vince and Tom Alsop helped Hampshire canter to victory over Gloucestershire to keep their Royal London One-Day Cup quarter-final hopes alive.

Chasing 238 on what turned into a glorious afternoon at The Ageas Bowl, Alsop was punchy and composed as he made an 84-ball 53 to set a platform for skipper Vince’s match-winning knock. He should have been dismissed on six when Phil Mustard inexplicably missed a stumping opportunity with Vince a quarter of the way down the pitch, and he made the most of his life.

Some elegant shots featured in Vince’s 89, including a lovely cover drive and a beauty of a straight drive off Chris Liddle, but he hit just seven fours. He did twice clear the rope, however, first launching Graeme van Buuren over midwicket and then smashing him over wide mid on.

Fittingly, the winning runs came from Vince, tickling fine to the boundary as a comprehensive victory was wrapped up with seven and a half overs remaining.

Alsop looked good in his innings, pacing the early overs nicely while Jimmy Adams, brought into the side for Michael Carberry, struck seven fours in his 36 to get ahead of the rate.

Alsop feathered behind trying to late cut but he had pushed Gloucestershire to the edge of the game.

George Bailey’s cameo of 37, assisted by Chris Liddle’s dolly of a drop at mid off, helped Vince take the game away and, although he fell trying to flat-bat one over midwicket, the wicket was too little too late for the visitors, whose quarter-final hopes look to be dead.

Crane said: “It relieves a bit of the pressure but we’ve still got to try and win every game. Vincey said in the warm-up to treat it like a quarter-final and we did so it was great to get the win.

A lot of teams have started really well so hopefully a good result at Somerset and we’ll see where we are after that.”

Earlier, Gloucestershire had fallen at least 30 runs short of an intimidating target, thanks in large part to some strong middle over bowling from spin twins Liam Dawson and Mason Crane.

Dawson, who bowled straight through, gave his side plenty of control after a slightly erratic first change spell from both Gareth Berg and Sean Ervine.

Chris Dent reverse swept him to Berg at short third man for 36, Ian Cockbain (12) missed one that went straight on, and van Buuren skied a horrendous slog on ten with Ervine moving back and away to his left to compete the catch.

He conceded just two boundaries in his allocation and was partnered well by Crane who, on a used wicket, found good turn and troubled a fragile middle order.

Crane trapped Mustard lbw with a topspinner in his first spell and claimed two in two in his final over – Tom Smith, reverse paddling to the wicketkeeper, and Liam Norwell clean bowled for a golden duck.

He and Dawson took 6-83 from their 20 overs, and Crane said it went to plan: “That’s what we talk about in every warm up, we set a target between our 20 overs, we want to take a certain amount of wickets. Today was great and it’s good to have him at the other end. He’s a class act.”

Jack Taylor was the only batsman to offer resistance, working his way to 63, but his departure to Berg saw Gloucestershire lose four wickets for ten runs in just 13 balls as they collapsed from 205-5 to 215-9.

Late order bludgeoning from Benny Howell got his side to 237 but it was never enough on a pitch that had no substantial demons and on an afternoon that became picturesque as the sun emerged and the temperature rose.

RLODC Preview: Hampshire v Gloucestershire

For a side looking to bounce back from an underwhelming white-ball campaign in 2016, and a side who won the Royal London One-Day Cup just two years ago, Hampshire and Gloucestershire have had poor starts this season.

Both teams have just one victory from three matches, and will know that whoever loses this affair face a tough task to reach the quarter-finals – defeat is either team’s third loss; no side has ever progressed with four.

Hampshire struggled in their last outing, their only home match so far, restricting Middlesex to 295 with Nick Gubbins making them toil in his 114, before Toby Roland-Jones ripped through the hosts’ top-order to claim an 89-run D/L victory.

Meanwhile Gloucestershire were subjected to Alastair Cook’s highest List A score in five years, with half-centuries from Phil Mustard and Ian Cockbain not enough to salvage a win.

Gloucestershire openers Chris Dent and Michael Klinger hit big hundreds (142 and 166* respectively) when these two sides met last June and despite four half-centuries, Hampshire fell ten runs short.

It has been eight years since Gloucestershire last played at Southampton – a three wicket defeat – with none of that team incumbent. That was Hampshire’s last victory; the visitors have won their last three meetings.

A win could see either team move into fourth in the South Group but more pressing is the need to kick-start their one-day season and build some confidence by the halfway stage of the group fixtures.

Key Men

Tom Alsop started this campaign strongly with an unbeaten 112 against Kent but two subsequent scores of 12 were disappointing. He found himself omitted from Hampshire’s red-ball plans at the start of the season, only included through injury, but he missed just one game in last year’s One-Day Cup and averaged 54. He has a major role to play at the top of the order negotiating the most difficult period on a mostly lifeless pitch, and runs from him will put his side in a commanding position.

Chris Dent was Gloucestershire’s second top run scorer in this format last season but has begun 2017, having made double figures just once. His final innings before the start of this competition was a Specsavers County Championship century against Durham, to go with three fifties in five further first-class innings. Dent’s white-ball start may be worrying but the trip to The Ageas Bowl offers a chance to return to form.

Team News

Both sides remain unchanged from their last fixture, with the hosts still missing Rilee Rossouw, Fidel Edwards, Chris Wood and Brad Wheal. Gloucestershire have now named the same squad for all four of their One-Day Cup matches.

Hampshire squad: James Vince (c), Lewis McManus, Michael Carberry, Tom Alsop, George Bailey, Jimmy Adams, Liam Dawson, Sean Ervine, Gareth Berg, Kyle Abbott, Mason Crane, Reece Topley, Ian Holland.

Gloucestershire squad: Michael Klinger (c), Phil Mustard (wk), Chris Dent, Graeme van Buuren, Ian Cockbain, Jack Taylor, Benny Howell, Kieran Noema-Barnett, Tom Smith, Craig Miles, Liam Norwell, Chris Liddle, Matt Taylor

Form

Hampshire: LLWLW

Gloucestershire: LWLAL

Weather and conditions

It is set to remain dry but overcast for much of the day, and with the new ball generally liable to plenty of movement at The Ageas Bowl, both sides could be under pressure early in their innings.

Date: 7th May 2017
Time: 11:00am
Ground: The Ageas Bowl
Umpires: Steve Garratt and Alex Wharf
Odds (SkyBet): Hampshire 8/11, Gloucestershire 11/10

Ballance defiant against tough Hampshire attack

In spite of what Kyle Abbott and Gareth Berg would want you to believe in this match, batting at The Ageas Bowl isn’t that difficult – once the new ball is negotiated, the wicket threat mostly dries up.

Gary Ballance showed his Yorkshire teammates the right way with two potentially match-saving innings that were unflustered and calm, completing a century in the morning session and reaching a second-innings 78* by the close.

Neither knock was particularly remarkable; he greeted the Hampshire attack with a lack of eccentricity and replaced it with plenty of guile.

He came in with the score just 13 yesterday evening, and when Joe Root went for his second single-figure score of the match just after lunch today, Yorkshire were following on and two down for 20.

Cover drives and shots through third man were Ballance’s forte, with the occasional pull shot also finding its way to the boundary. A pushed single into the offside marked his century in the morning session, a run perhaps typical of the innings he played.

He made his craft look easy, playing deliveries patiently and on merit, but not turgidly, waiting for opportunities to score. It was about everything you could want from a number four batsman.

It took a sublime effort from Sean Ervine, diving full stretch to his left at first slip, to remove Ballance the first time on 108, with the odd half-chance the next closest thing.

As a captain, Ballance’s batting record is phenomenal: four first-class centuries in charge of Yorkshire (plus an additional five at Mid West Rhinos) and he has only failed to pass 50 twice in nine innings as skipper.

That Hampshire struggled to dismiss him was through little fault of the bowlers, who generally put the ball in good areas and kept the batsman in check. Liam Dawson got some good turn throughout the day to enhance the hosts’ potential.

But this is an otherwise flat pitch with very little help for the seamers once the ball has become older. Abbott and Berg showed less hostility second time around than first, but their opening spell was still a dangerous one.

Root, in particular, may have nightmares about Abbott. The South African had him in all sorts on the second evening; today, he was trapped lbw by a ball that kept low and he could do little about it. Scores of eight and two aren’t quite what the new England captain was hoping for on his county return.

Once Ballance saw off the openers, he was in little bother. Reece Topley, who took the final first-innings wicket of Ben Coad as his first scalp in Hampshire colours, threatened the bat on several occasions and was deserving of more than his single wicket, but Ballance countered him – just as he did the entire attack.

Other batsmen were less convincing, though it took until lunch for Hampshire to finish off the first innings. Adil Rashid, resuming on 16*, added 18 more before a terrific catch from James Vince at wide mid-off, diving back and to his left, sent him packing.

Dawson took 2-25, first bowling David Willey through the gate with drift and spin, and then getting Ballance. Coad’s wicket saw Yorkshire all out for 231, 224 behind, and forced to follow on.

Adam Lyth followed up his first-innings eight by scoring two fewer, nicking Berg behind. Only Alex Lees, during the afternoon, offered resistance similar to Yorkshire’s leader.

Two sharp chances for Vince at third slip and wicketkeeper Lewis McManus presented Hampshire with opportunities to break Lees’ resolve.

He otherwise looked in fine touch, launching a Sean Ervine offbreak into the midwicket stand and playing some elegant cover drives in his 70.

Lees was caught behind five overs from the end of the day and Yorkshire, having looked so assured during the evening session, are still far from out of the mire. They trail by 46, and the new ball is just 19 overs away.

For all of Ballance’s hard work so far, it could so easily come to nothing if he and Yorkshire’s middle order don’t bat for most of the final day.

Berg gives Hampshire command over Yorkshire

Stumps, Day Two: Yorkshire 128-6 (Ballance 63*) trail Hampshire 455 (Vince 147, Berg 99*; Coad 4-71) by 327 runs.

Hampshire are fortunate to still be in Division One. But for the ECB punishing Durham with relegation, they would have dropped a tier having finished second-bottom in a dismal 2016 season.

And yet their displays in 2017 are akin to that of a title-challenging side, certainly not one widely tipped to flounder at the wrong end of the table once again.

Against a Yorkshire side packed with eight internationals, including England Test captain Joe Root, Gareth Berg spent the afternoon gradually dismantling his opponents with the bat and then, in tandem with Kyle Abbott, brutally eviscerating them with some lethal fast bowling.

Post-tea, they produced a relentlessly sublime opening spell that made Yorkshire’s top order seem like novices, accounting for both openers, Root, and Peter Handscomb.

Abbott was especially dangerous, squaring up Gary Ballance four times in an over having had Root in similarly dire straits. His opening seven overs went for just eight runs with five maidens.

He eventually got Handscomb with an lbw that looked harsh – perhaps hitting him outside off – but was fully deserving of his scalp; his only disappointment will be having not taken more.

Berg, having made an unbeaten 99 earlier in the afternoon, trapped Alex Lees in front – that one maybe a little high – for a duck and had Adam Lyth chop on in consecutive overs.

Root fell playing a very Root-esque shot, attempting to pierce the offside on the back foot but edging through to the wicketkeeper on eight.

Ballance steadied the ship, reaching a tenacious half-century, but partners Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan were eventually dismissed, the former adjudged lbw off Brad Wheal and the latter caught behind playing a very loose drive off Berg.

The visitors recovered to close 128-6 but remain 327 runs behind Hampshire, in danger of being asked to follow on, and faced with the possibility of losing twice to a relegation favourite in their opening three matches.

If not for Berg’s earlier batting display, however, things would have been very different.

Since joining from Middlesex in 2015, Berg has yet to record a century in any format, his highest score a 99 at Hove two years ago. He was stranded here on the same score when Wheal became Root’s 30th first-class wicket.

It was a classy, if at times uninspiring, innings, and a crucial one to help his side recover from 302-7 to 455 all out.

Adam Lyth’s second drop of the match, a tough chance to his left at first slip, was as close as Yorkshire got to dismissing him as he was subsequently unperturbed by whatever a tiring and increasingly lifeless bowling attack sent his way.

Berg’s half-century came from 89 balls and with just Wheal left for company he upped the tempo. One elderly spectator beneath the pavilion needed a bandage having been hit as Berg advanced to Adil Rashid and plonked him over long on.

Two Rashid overs later and he again found the stands, clearing his front leg and carting the legspinner to cow corner – less second day in a Specsavers County Championship match, more penultimate over of a Natwest T20 Blast game.

Berg struck just eight fours to go with his pair of sixes, passing 4,000 first-class runs and 1,000 for Hampshire, looking far better than a man without a century in five and a half years and considerably better than a man batting at number eight.

His innings became a necessary one when a flurry of three wickets for two runs before noon left Hampshire reeling at 302-7. James Vince added just four runs to his overnight 143 in ten overs before Ben Coad found his inside edge, playing away from his body.

David Willey then took two wickets in as many overs, Lewis McManus clipping through to Bairstow off his legs before angling one across to Liam Dawson and removing him lbw.

Kyle Abbott’s entertaining cameo of 30 included depositing Rashid for his first conceded six of the day (Berg’s additional two off him were the day’s quota) while Reece Topley, batting at ten, surpassed his high score of 15 by a solitary run before being given leg-before.

He later bowled for the first time in his Hampshire career – having broken his hand batting in the first innings of last season – and although wicketless, his pace was up and he is sure to play a large part in the remainder of this match and in his side’s season.

Vince leads Hampshire charge against Yorkshire

Stumps, Day One: Hampshire 281/4 (Vince 143*) against Yorkshire

James Vince had a torrid summer in 2016.

Despite making his Test debut and playing all seven matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, his performance with the bat was unconvincing, high scoring with 42 and averaging just 19; his domestic form was not much better, passing fifty just four times in all formats.

2017, however, may be more positive. His 143* against Yorkshire – his first century in a year and two days, scored at Headingley – showed glimpses of both the quality that saw him selected for England and the technical pitfall that saw him omitted from their winter.

Early stages of his innings looked near carbon copies of his Test experience, edging through vacant slip positions and having an easy chance dropped on 39 by Adam Lyth at second.

A beauty of a cover drive while still in single figures set a benchmark for what he needed to do and although it took him a lot of time to look truly comfortable playing through the offside, he did gradually get better.

Throughout, Vince took a stance just outside off stump and it was largely beneficial, freeing himself up to hit well through leg too, pulling Ben Coad to the midwicket fence to bring up his half-century.

From there, he looked in full flow, smashing Tim Bresnan through cover point and then deftly late cutting him for his 11th four.

He struck just three more boundaries before reaching his century – including a wonderful straight drive having advanced to Adil Rashid – instead poking holes in the field and finessing his way towards three-figures.

Having gone to tea on 97*, he dispatched Joe Root to the cover boundary for his 19th first-class ton and third against the side he scored his maiden century.

Back-to-back boundaries off Rashid oozed confidence and by the time the players departed for bad light, Vince had found the rope 20 times.

The likelihood of a Test recall, given the extent of his struggles, are not especially high right now but if Vince can continue finding the rope and avoid finding second slip as the season goes on, it will become difficult to ignore the 26-year-old.

Yorkshire had started the day well, having not contested the toss and bowling on a very overcast morning at The Ageas Bowl.

Coad had looked dangerous, shaping the ball in to Hampshire’s two left-handed openers and although surviving did not appear too much an issue, scoring was: his first two spells, totalling eight overs before lunch, leaked just 16.

Michael Carberry, having batted so patiently last week, flashed hard at his ninth ball from Coad and was dismissed for six thanks to a good catch from Jonny Bairstow, diving to his left.

The 23-year-old picked up his second scalp first ball after lunch as he trapped Jimmy Adams, who was watchful for his 29, lbw.

It brought to the crease Tom Alsop, playing for the first time this season, and he immediately made a mark with two magnificent straight drives in his first three deliveries, eventually falling lbw for 40.

Sean Ervine looked set for a second half-century in a week having accompanied Vince after tea, hitting six fours – including two late cuts off Bresnan – but progressed to 48 rather unremarkably.

He got a probing delivery from Coad – his 21st wicket in just five Specsavers County Championship innings this season – with Bairstow taking a smart catch low to his left.

Late in the day, Liam Dawson passed 6,000 first-class runs with a flick through midwicket to the boundary, going in overnight on 8*, and he and Vince have a strong platform to kick on from tomorrow.

SSCC Preview: Hampshire v Yorkshire

Having begun the season as heavy favourites for relegation, Hampshire have proven themselves to be more capable than many gave them credit for.

An opening game victory over title contenders and this weekend’s opponents Yorkshire, and an impressive performance against county champions Middlesex, have left them second in the Specsavers County Championship Division One table.

Michael Carberry’s 98 and Rilee Rossouw’s 99 put Hampshire in a commanding position but with, Fidel Edwards unable to bowl, Middlesex’s middle order were resolute and showed the fight that saw them win Division One last year.

Kolpak signing Kyle Abbott was particularly dangerous, taking 5-59 in the second innings, and with a fully fit bowling attack they are likely to present real problems.

The Vikings head to the South Coast off the back of a resounding innings win against Warwickshire – thanks largely to Ben Coad’s ten-wicket haul – but will be wary having fallen short two weeks ago.

They have an impressive squad including seven England players and Australian Peter Handscomb and combined, the two sides have more than a dozen internationals.

Jonny Bairstow has been allowed to feature this week after Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale criticised the ECB for preventing him playing against Middlesex.

The opening-day matchup was a fascinating encounter and with the strength-in-depth of both teams, coupled with Hampshire’s remarkable start, this has all the makings of another phenomenal battle.

Key Men

Despite the controversy surrounding him joining Hampshire, South African Kyle Abbott has already shown why those at The Ageas Bowl wanted him. A seven-wicket haul in the second innings two weeks ago helped set up his sides surprising win and a fiery spell of bowling on the third day last week gave Middlesex a real scare. Only Gary Ballance and Coad avoided being one of Abbott’s victims last time out and Yorkshire will need to counter the 29-year-old’s pace to avoid a second defeat in three.

Ben Coad has played just five first-class matches but has made quite the impression this season. He has 18 wickets from Yorkshire’s two Championship games, including three five-wicket-hauls, and has looked destructive. Hampshire lost their top six for 65 in the reverse fixture thanks to the 23-year-old and, if he continues his strong form, the hosts will have an upward battle on their hands to repeat their Headingley triumph.

 

Team News

Fidel Edwards’s hamstring injury keeps him out of the match while Rilee Rossouw, who batted with a chipped finger in his left hand last week, also misses out. Reece Topley played for the 2nd XI this week and is included, looking for only his second senior game for the club, having missed almost all of 2016 through injury.

Hampshire squad: James Vince (c), Kyle Abbott, Jimmy Adams, Tom Alsop, Gareth Berg, Michael Carberry, Mason Crane, Liam Dawson, Sean Ervine, Lewis McManus (wk), Reece Topley, Brad Wheal

Yorkshire welcome back new England Test captain Joe Root and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, while Azeem Rafiq also returns to the squad. Liam Plunkett, Ryan Sidebottom, and Jack Brooks all remain sidelined through injury.

Yorkshire squad: Gary Ballance (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Tim Bresnan, Ben Coad, Matthew Fisher, Peter Handscomb, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Steven Patterson, Azeem Rafiq, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, David Willey.

 

Form

Hampshire: DWLDD

Yorkshire: WLLLW

 

Weather and conditions

The weather is set fair for the weekend, though the Hampshire faithful are unlikely to require sun cream. With conditions helpful for fast bowlers and on an Ageas Bowl pitch that will not be particularly conducive for spin, Mason Crane may find himself missing out again.

Date: 21st-24th April 2017

Time: 11:00am

Ground: The Ageas Bowl

Umpires: Billy Taylor & Alex Wharf

Odds (SkyBet): Hampshire 6/5, Yorkshire 4/6

Middlesex rally for draw as Hampshire turn to unfamiliar tweakers

A strong rearguard action from Middlesex and some baffling bowling by Hampshire ensured both sides left The Ageas Bowl with ten points apiece.

Resuming after lunch with the visitors five down, Hampshire had nine overs until the second new ball and decided the best option was a combination of Liam Dawson and Sean Ervine, bowling competent if unthreatening off-breaks.

Later, after a ninth-wicket partnership of 37 between Toby Roland-Jones and Ollie Rayner, and with Tim Murtagh accompanying the latter for the final wicket, the spin-bowling pair were reintroduced into the attack.

And either side of tea, Michael Carberry walked up with his own off-spin – although it was more impressions than it was bowling – and Jimmy Adams trundled in with some medium pace.

Carberry’s stint was greeted with cheers and applause from the Hampshire faithful, but it marked the moment where a side who had been in a commanding position for much of this match had conceded victory.

And although sharing the spoils with the county champions after beating Yorkshire is a considerably better start than many punters would have anticipated, it is difficult to deny that Hampshire let this game slip.

The day did not start especially well, with nightwatchman Steven Finn and Adam Voges keeping the hosts at bay for the better part of an hour.

Both looked solid until Finn chipped Brad Wheal into the legside on 16, giving their opponents a rejuvenated hope.

John Simpson joined Voges and together they continued to resist, putting on 75 for the sixth wicket with very little fuss and few fireworks, their partnership yielding just six boundaries.

They faced Dawson and Ervine in a spell of bowling that seemed little more than going through the motions, never really looking as though a wicket might fall and instead consumed nine overs for 30 runs, essentially handing Middlesex a greater advantage.

Pinning all their hopes on the new ball worked, though, with Kyle Abbott striking third ball – removing Voges in the exact same fashion as he removed Stevie Eskinazi last night, a short and wide delivery edged behind.

The Australian made 92, meaning the match went without a ton despite five 80+ scores, three of which were in the nineties.

Abbott then squared up James Franklin to pick up his fifth wicket, acknowledging the feat by holding his right hand in the air in triumph – he looked deadly and is proving to be a fantastic signing.

Simpson was unfortunate to depart having received a rip-snorter of a delivery from Gareth Berg, the ball popping off the surface and taking the glove with evasive action unable to save the wicketkeeper.

At 215-8, with a lead of just 133 and more than 50 overs remaining, it looked as though Middlesex would lose a Specsavers County Championship match for the first time since 2015.

But Roland-Jones and Rayner had other ideas, the former playing some beautifully crisp drives – first through mid-on, then through cover – while the latter was watchful, having to evade a flurry of bouncers from Wheal.

By the time Roland-Jones went, the lead was 170 and if a Hampshire win was still an outside possibility, Murtagh helped steal it away.

At one point, he struck three consecutive fours off Wheal with the following field: first slip, leg slip, short leg, mid-on, long-leg, third-man, third-man so fine he was basically a backstop, deep backward-point, and cover.

That was about an hour before the handshakes, but it perhaps best sums up a strange afternoon of cricket as Middlesex salvaged a more positive result than they deserved for much of the play.

James Vince said: “The way the guys fought back from [Middlesex being 220-2 in the first innings] to get in a position where we came really close to being able to chase a getable score on that wicket is a great effort from everyone, especially the bowlers having lost Fidel Edwards quite early in that first innings [to a hamstring injury].

“To put in the shift that they did was outstanding to get us into that position.

“There wasn’t much on offer when the ball was a bit older so we tried to keep it tight in that first session and pick up wickets if and when we could, and then that new ball did exactly what we wanted.

“Huge credit to all the boys and to win away at Yorkshire and then to come here and back it up like that was a great effort.”

Middlesex’s James Franklin said: “The first two days, I thought there was quite good parity in the game and then yesterday we blew a couple of chances and I guess Hampshire gained the ascendency, and we really had to scrap it out today.

“We weren’t at our best by any stretch in this game. First game up, we showed quite a few rusty signs there in all departments but it’s a good thing. We’ve got a lot to improve on and luckily we’ve come out of here relatively unscathed.”