Jamie Porter and Essex had few days like this one last year. On a gloomy Southampton Saturday with conditions perfect for bowling, Essex managed just two wickets as Hampshire moved to a good position with play curtailed by bad light.
Porter remains wicketless — a plight he endured just twice in last season’s Specsavers County Championship — after an unimpressive display from him and his colleagues. They rarely strayed loose but, save for an early few deliveries that popped slightly, didn’t look particularly threatening.
Jimmy Adams made full use of the opportunity with a half-century, brought up the first ball after lunch with an edge wide of slip. He had added just four runs when striking the first boundary of the day, cover driven off Peter Siddle, in the eighth over of the morning.
The match’s speed continued in that vein until just before the interval, when James Vince upped the tempo in his trademark stylish manner, finding the ropes through the offside. New England head selector Ed Smith was at the ground and, for a time, would have been impressed by what he saw.
Vince’s dismissal was uncharacteristic, but only in the bowler who removed him. On 47, trying to cut off-spinner Simon Harmer, he found a faint edge that went straight into James Foster’s gloves.
His disappointment was clear to see: a wild swish of the bat as he departed having once again thrown his wicket away after being well set.
But Adams remained, resolute in defence with just one shout against him, when he was hit on the foot by a sharp yorker from Sam Cook. On the last three occasions where he has passed 50 in first-class cricket, his lowest score is 144.
Australian Siddle had broken the opening-wicket stand of 54 between Adams and Joe Weatherley. 21-year-old Weatherley is playing in the absence of Sam Northeast, out with a broken finger, and he could do little about a delivery that rose on him but edge it to third slip.
One of the more exciting moments from the day came as Neil Bainton replaced Tim Robinson, who had stood as umpire on the opening day but did not take the field on the second morning, in the middle as Robinson is understood to have an issue with his contact lenses.
With the light poor all day, Bainton and Paul Baldwin took the players from the field at 2.35pm and conditions failed to sufficiently improve for a resumption. Play was called off at 5.45pm — just 45 overs were possible as the hosts added 113 runs.
Essex head coach Anthony McGrath said: “We’re pretty happy with how we’ve bowled but I think you’ve got to give them some credit, I thought they played really well.
“I think we’ve controlled the run rate, there [are] enough good balls about, I think on another day we might have had a few more wickets.”
Hampshire head coach Craig White said: “I thought the boys played really well in tricky conditions. It was overcast, swinging around a bit, little bit of nip in the pitch. To get to what we got to today was a great effort.
“It’s a points game from here on in I think. It depends how much we get in tomorrow, we’ll be looking at 300, 350 if possible. We’ll see where we’re at and might have a crack at them and try and get some bowling points.”