Sam Northeast scored his maiden first-class home half-century for Hampshire as he and Liam Dawson showed their teammates and the visiting Somerset side the way to bat in seamer-friendly conditions.
When the pair came together, Hampshire were six wickets down and still 38 runs behind Somerset’s first innings. The partnership eventually ended when Dawson chipped one back to Ben Green, but they had added 56 — the highest partnership of the match.
By the time their stand got going, batting had looked a lot easier, although Somerset still took the ball past the bat and found the occasional edge wide or short of the slips. The pair had started to look slightly more fluent before Dawson’s wicket.
Northeast batted ably for 179 minutes to reach his 53 before being bowled by Jamie Overton, but he accumulated just one run in his 20 deliveries after Dawson’s wicket. It meant Hampshire’s lead building slowed considerably and it kept the visitors in close contention.
Dale Steyn was bowled attempting an expansive drive but Hampshire ended the day nine wickets down and leading by 36 runs, and that proved an impressive recovery. After Somerset had been dismissed for just 106, the hosts looked to be sliding in the same direction.
Oli Soames, in his second Specsavers County Championship appearance, was trapped in front by Josh Davey for a duck. Lewis Gregory quickly picked up two in an over. First Joe Weatherley was lbw before James Vince was bowled playing a loose drive to an in-swinger second ball.
A 47-run partnership between Jimmy Adams, who is retiring at the end of the season, and Northeast steadied the ship but Adams fell last ball before tea, hanging his bat at a wide delivery from Davey and edging behind.
Jamie Overton quickly accounted for Tom Alsop, lbw leaving the ball on one, and Ian Holland, bowled with a beautiful in-swinging yorker for two, to leave Hampshire in the mire. Alsop’s record since the Vitality Blast is curious: he has two ducks and averages 1.5 in four first innings, but has three half-centuries at 71.3.
This was a day that further demolished Somerset’s already minuscule hopes of winning the title. Their 106 all out meant they picked up no batting bonus points, which could pave the way for Surrey to clinch Division One this week.
With a potential points deduction looming for last week’s pitch against Lancashire, it is difficult to see them taking it to next week. This Ageas Bowl wicket will not incur similar questions over its fitness for Championship cricket, but it may provoke them about batting in conditions that aid seamers even slightly.
Earlier, Kyle Abbott picked up his third five-wicket haul of the season to blow the visitors away. Somerset had chosen to bat first on a pitch slightly greener than usual, likely in an attempt to negate the impact of Jack Leach and Dom Bess. It worked: they selected Davey instead of Bess, while Leach didn’t bowl in Hampshire’s 57 overs.
Marcus Trescothick took three sumptuous offside drives from Kyle Abbott’s first over but prodded at the third ball of his next and was caught behind. Green added 28 with Azhar Ali before the latter was lbw to Holland’s ninth ball of the day.
Green’s dismissal, bowled through the gate attempting a loose drive to Holland, started a collapse of eight wickets for 42 runs. The usually ever-reliable James Hildreth drove a good-length ball to second slip before Tom Abell edged Dale Steyn to third slip on the stroke of lunch.
Abbott had two for 21 at the interval and picked up his next three wickets for just four runs in 16 balls: Gregory went lbw — plumb enough that he could have walked — Steve Davies was bowled by one that moved away late, and Jamie Overton was lbw for a duck. The South African ended up with five for 31.
Steyn accounted for Craig Overton and Leach, both caught by wicketkeeper Alsop, as Somerset’s decision at the toss appeared to have backfired. The bowlers have given them an opportunity to salvage victory, but it will require significantly more grit on the second day than was shown by the batsmen on the first.