Kyle Abbott scored his third first-class half-century for Hampshire and took three wickets to dent Worcestershire’s chance of chasing what appears a distant 324 total required for victory on a third day that lost 51 overs to rain.
The South African made good use of conditions that perfectly suited him either side of a four-hour rain delay, removing Brett D’Oliveira before the break and taking two more scalps after it.
D’Oliveira was trapped lbw for one in just his second over. Rain during lunch meant a lengthy stoppage, with numerous inspections throughout the afternoon eventually culminating in a 5.45pm restart.
It took just five balls for Abbott to bowl Tom Fell, who played inside one that held its line, leaving Worcestershire reeling at 18-2. Joe Clarke showed glimpses of why he is so highly-rated, batting elegantly and positively in a difficult last hour, having been hit on the hand by Gareth Berg.
But he was given lbw when Abbott found a hint of late movement. The visitors survived through to stumps just three down, with nightwatchman Josh Tongue accompanying opener Daryl Mitchell (34*), but scoring the 265 still needed for victory would require a sublime final day.
Earlier, Abbott had made up for running out Hashim Amla on day two – “I lost a little bit of sleep last night running out the best batsman in the world,” he reflected — by taking the attack to a bowling unit seemingly devoid of ideas and lacking in threat, extending the overnight lead of 242.
Joe Leach, Worcestershire’s most threatening bowler throughout the game, bowled just four overs at the start of the day.
Abbott timed the ball sweetly, punching down the ground and whipping the ball to leg with ease. He lasted just five deliveries after reaching a 69-ball fifty, a leading edge flying to slip as Hampshire were all out for 244.
But a ninth wicket partnership of 72 between him and Brad Wheal pushed the game further from Worcestershire’s reach, the visitors requiring the highest total scored across the country this week to emerge victorious.
Abbott, speaking at the close of play, said: “I wasn’t in the greatest rhythm to be quite honest, I struggled a bit. The run-ups are still a bit wet and now and then you just slip on the crease and lose your body position a bit.
“It was key to pick up those [wickets], I think we would have liked one more if we’re going to get a bit greedy but it was an ugly period for them to bat and to put two more on the board was great for us.
“Realistically, I think we’d have to bowl quite poorly [to lose]. It’s going up and down, it’s still nibbling about. I think it would take a big effort. Nothing’s impossible but I still think we’ve got the ball firmly in our court.”
Ed Barnard, who took both Hampshire wickets today, said: “It has been topsy-turvy the whole game but we are probably a little bit disappointed with the way they got away from us this morning.
“We have got a bit of a start and Daryl Mitchell is still out there so
hopefully he can go big and help us chase them down.”