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.
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.
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.
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
Ground: The Ageas Bowl
Umpires: Billy Taylor & Alex Wharf
Odds (SkyBet): Hampshire 6/5, Yorkshire 4/6