Hampshire 209-4 (Carberry 84*, Ervine 53) trail Middlesex 356 (Robson 84, Eskinazi 82; Wheal 4-98) by 147 runs
If ever there was a day that encapsulated why those who dislike cricket hold that view, this was it.
The sun shone over The Ageas Bowl for roughly a third of the day, but it did little to raise the temperature – particularly beneath the pavilion, bathed in shade at all times making winter coats and woolly hats a necessity for a number of spectators.
And the cricket itself was not actively engaging, with the run rate slow and the wicket-taking incredibly intermittent.
Even for the cricket lovers, the play was not especially inspiring, but Michael Carberry’s 84* was, with the opener looking as classy as ever in just his fourth first-class innings since recovering from a cancerous tumour.
There are many words that could be used to describe his 234-ball innings: watchful, patient, cautious – perhaps even boring. Certainly calling it uncharacteristic would be an understatement.
But it was also gritty and resolute, the 36-year-old providing a demonstration of his ability to adapt to the situation and his lack of flair was absolutely the only way to go about proceedings.
Even on the occasions where the sun did break through, conditions remained overcast throughout and Middlesex used that to their advantage, creating plenty of pressure and chances.
Carberry was no exception to that, twice edging just short of a slip cordon eager to pounce – and was kept restrained for much of the afternoon.
There were glimpses of the style most associated with him, a number of crunching cuts piercing the infield and, not long after passing fifty, outrageously pulling Tim Murtagh for six.
For the most part, though, he was considered, punishing the odd wayward ball and holding his ground as required, with a selflessness that has put his side into a strong position at the midway point of this match.
After losing opening partner Jimmy Adams and skipper James Vince – wafting at one from James Franklin and nicking to second slip for just eight – in the space of half a dozen overs, Carberry needed to dig in and that’s exactly what he did.
It took him 154 balls to reach his half-century, brought up with another lovely cut off Ollie Rayner, but the speed did not matter for there was more value in his innings as there would have been in a quickfire cameo.
The bludgeoning approach was, for a second day, quickly worked out as the wrong way to go in conditions offering help to bowlers with undue risk a dangerous ploy.
Toby Roland-Jones and Rayner had put on quick runs before Middlesex were bowled out, but there was elegance to their batting that, although flashy, never really looked as though they would throw away their wickets.
Roland-Jones got to 39 before chipping to Liam Dawson at cover, before the left-arm spinner trapped Rayner in front with the very next ball.
Middlesex got to 350 nine balls after the bonus point cut-off and Hampshire had their ninth wicket just seven balls after.
Steve Finn was the last man to go, Brad Wheal getting him lbw, and that left Hampshire a tricky half-hour before lunch to negotiate.
Roland-Jones and Murtagh looked dangerous in those eight overs, frequently threatening the bat and making the Hampshire openers as uncomfortable as they could.
Save for Vince, Hampshire’s batsmen looked good. Adams fell for 34 but could have got more while Dawson was unhappy at being given caught behind on 19 after a strong start.
And Sean Ervine played a cool hand, chipping in with a 77-ball 53 that was far less patient than his partner but just as important and arguably far more entertaining.
But it was Carberry’s resolve that set the platform for Ervine, and has also provided a valuable platform for his side.