Middlesex recovered from 41-3, thanks to a career best 92 from Martin Andersson, to hold off Hampshire’s ferocious pace attack on the first day at Radlett.
A career best 4-70 from Ryan Stevenson, and two wickets a piece from James fuller and Keith Barker, caused two batting collapses in unexpectedly good bowling conditions.
Speaking after his innings Andersson said: “It was a good challenge today. I played a couple of streaking shots early on, but it got easier as the game went on.
“The Hampshire lads bowled very well. It was doing quite a bit. It was bouncing and nipping about a bit.
“Hopefully our bowlers too can do some damage. It will be important how we bowl tomorrow morning; if we can get a few quick wickets it’ll be our day.”
The day began as Sam Northeast’s unusual choice to put Middlesex in to bat paid off immediately, with Sam Robson lasting just ten deliveries. The Middlesex opener was barely able to put bat to ball against a vicious spell from Barker. The former England opener departed for a duck after the left hander removed his off stump.
The in-form Nick Gubbins followed shortly for eight, attempting to hook Fuller into the stands but only finding Felix Organ at fine leg.
Middlesex skipper Stephen Eskinazi looked like he’d pull the Middlesex innings back together, driving his first ball down the ground for four. For the third time in three innings, however, he fell lbw for 18 and provided Stevenson with his first wicket after being recalled to the Hampshire side.
Middlesex were in trouble on 41-3 when Andersson stepped to the crease, and the number five helped the hosts make it to lunch without further loss.
The break in play brought the return of Barker, however, and the veteran left hander tormented Middlesex’s Max Holden with his outswinger. Holden was dropped off a tough chance to third slip on 35, but he was unable to make the mistake count and a repeat incident occurred an over later. He left the crease on 36.
Middlesex looked in trouble again when Andersson was dropped on 23. However, unlike Holden, the all rounder made his opportunity count. He brought his 50 up off 71 balls with a one handed drive through the covers.
The fifth wicket parternship of 93 between Andersson and John Simpson evened out the loss of early wickets for Middlesex. Simpson hit three boundaries off Barker in four balls to end the left handers spell while Andersson consistently ticked over.
As the overhead conditions improved, Hampshire failed to capitalise, dropping Simpson was dropped at first slip. However, he became Stevenson’s second wicket on 28.
Despite wickets falling around him Andersson continued. The 23-year-old passed his previous best of 83, set in his second first class game, and looked in the mood to continue. A perfect straight drive down the ground brought him onto 88. A miscued pull shot then landed over the keeper to bring him into the nineties.
The return of Fuller halted the youngster’s process, though, as he was trapped lbw for 92 with Middlesex on 201-7.
The Middlesex tail stayed strong, with valuable contributions coming from Nathan Sowter and Tom Helm.
Two wickets in two balls from Stevenson put a quick end to the Middlesex offensive, but there was still time for Helm to clear the sight screen off a Liam Dawson delivery, taking Middlesex past 250 and securing a second batting point.
Dawson got his revenge several balls later and Middlesex were dismissed for 252.
In response, Hampshire looked in trouble when Harris had Organ caught at second slip on 13. The Middlesex seamer then tore out the night watchman Barker’s middle stump in his next over, to reduce the visitors to 23-2.
The visitors concluded the day 27-2, in a similar position to that which they reduced Middlesex to at the start of play.