As April draws to a close and the County Championship tables begin to take shape, strong title favourites Lancashire travel south to take on Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl. Both sides will be on a high after victories last time out and should be able to deliver a cracker in what will be the Red Rose’s second trip to the South Coast this season.
Hampshire bounced back from defeat at the Oval with a resounding victory over Kent in Canterbury in round three. There were centuries for James Vince, Liam Dawson and Ben Brown (the latter pair putting on a club record 5th wicket stand) as Hampshire piled on the runs to leave Kent needing to bat out a minimum of 120 overs for the draw. They admirably survived until tea on the final day before Kyle Abbott took three wickets in four balls to seal victory for the away side. Both Hampshire and Abbott will be hoping this acts as a catalyst for the South African’s campaign.
Lancashire too were only required to bat once as they also clinched a final day victory over a spirited Gloucestershire side. They are now the only county in either division in possession of a 100% record and appear to have all the tools needed for red-ball success this year. Josh Bohannon further enhanced his international credentials with his highest first-class score, his 231 putting Lancashire in a dominant position in the game, while it is hard to imagine that a bowling quartet of Jimmy Anderson, Hassan Ali, Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson will fail to take 20 wickets on too many occasions. Potential international call-ups are likely to be their biggest undoing this year.
Hampshire may still be haunted by their agonising defeat to Lancashire in Liverpool at the end of last season which saw them come within one wicket of the title, and you remarkably have to go as far back as 2009 for the last time Hampshire won a first-class game against this week’s opponents (incidentally in Liverpool as well). History is not on their side but they will have home advantage and will be determined to put down a marker against one of their major title rivals.
A steady but unremarkable beginning is probably the best way to describe young Felix Organ’s start to the season. Hampshire have batted big in two out of their three games so far to the extent they haven’t required major contributions from their lower middle order, but Organ’s 3 wickets in Kent’s second innings were vital as fellow spinner Mason Crane struggled. If Hampshire do decide to leave Crane out of this one then Organ’s all-round contributions will be even more important.
Hasan Ali admitted he was a little bit nervous about sharing the new ball with Jimmy Anderson for Lancashire but his performance against Gloucestershire last week showed otherwise. Overall match figures of 9-96 took him to 14 already for the season at an average of 13.57 and if he continues this form it will be a real test of skill for the Hampshire batters this week. He will be sorely missed when international duty calls at the start of June.
Hampshire have only used 12 players across their three first-class games this season and seem to have a settled core to select from. Mason Crane is not available for this game because he has gone on a short-term loan to Sussex. James Fuller is in the squad and may replace him.
Hampshire squad: James Vince (c), Kyle Abbott, Mohammad Abbas, Ben Brown (wk), Keith Barker, Liam Dawson, James Fuller, Nick Gubbins, Ian Holland, Felix Organ, Joe Weatherley, Brad Wheal
At the time of writing the ECB are yet to confirm which centrally contracted players will be released for domestic action this week so the availability of Jimmy Anderson and Saqib Mahmood for Lancashire is uncertain. Luke Wood missed out at Old Trafford with a calf strain, and along with Tom Bailey, could be in contention for a recall if Anderson and/or Mahmood are rested.
Lancashire (probable): Dane Vilas (c), Hasan Ali, James Anderson, Tom Bailey, George Balderson, Josh Bohannon, Steven Croft, Danny Lamb, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson, Phil Salt (wk), Luke Wells
Weather and conditions
Apart from the breezy conditions of the opening round, county players and fans alike have been blessed with the best conditions you could really ask for at this time of year thus far. This is set to continue in Southampton where sunshine, and more crucially, dry weather is expected over the course of the four days of this game. Runs will certainly be on offer although batting advantage may be negated to some extent as two of the best bowling attacks in the country go head to head.
Date: 28th April – 1st May 2022
Ground: Ageas Bowl, Southampton