Week 4 of the County Championship pits title contenders Hampshire against Division One newcomers Gloucestershire at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton.
After one of the driest opening months county cricket has seen in years, the rain finally arrived on Sunday and with it a full house of draws across Division One of the County Championship. There was frustration for Hampshire as they were denied the chance to press for a final day victory over early-season pace-setters Lancashire while even the rain could not be blamed for an inevitable draw on a flat Bristol deck between Gloucestershire and Surrey. Both sides will have plenty of reasons to be optimistic though, after their respective encounters and will be looking for results to help them at opposite ends of the table here.
Hampshire sit 2nd in the table and will be pleased with the way they recovered from 40-5 on day one to put themselves in a position to win the game before the rain intervened. Nick Gubbins in particular caught the eye with back-to-back centuries and in doing so became the fifth Hampshire player to score a hundred this season. With key batting contributions coming from several sources, and one of the most consistent seam attacks on the circuit, Hampshire seem to have all bases covered.
Gloucestershire meanwhile are still looking for their first win of their campaign but will be pleased after halting a run of two-straight defeats in round 4. An unbeaten double century for former captain Chris Dent was the highlight of a run fest that saw over 1000 runs scored over three days while Australian opener Marcus Harris has enjoyed a superb start to his Gloucestershire career. The bowlers have struggled in contrast but should find some assistance from a pitch that has provided an even contest between bat and ball in the two games played here thus far. They can also take solace from the calibre of opponents they have faced so far: they have already played three of the current top four and will complete the set against Hampshire this week.
Keith Barker has undoubtedly been the star of Hampshire’s seam bowling attack to date but he has been ably backed up by Pakistan seamer Mohammad Abbas who has taken 13 scalps at an average of under 22. He has been consistent rather than explosive so far but took 4-41 against Gloucestershire in the same fixture last season and will be hoping for a similar haul here.
After missing the first three rounds of the season due to Covid, David Payne made his return last week, taking 3-99 in trying circumstances against Surrey. Payne has been on the county circuit for many years now and will still have England ambitions after making a couple of white-ball squads within the last 12 months. Captain Graeme van Buuren will be hoping he can form a potent new-ball attack with new signing and fellow left-arm quick Mohammed Amir, particularly against a Hampshire top-order filled with right-handers.
News of Mason Crane’s loan switch to Sussex broke through on the eve of last week’s game against Lancashire, paving the way for the return of James Fuller who sat out the previous game against Kent. Coming in at 146-7 in the first innings, he delivered a swashbuckling 55 off 54 balls to take his side towards a respectable total and is likely to keep his place here in an unchanged Hampshire side.
Probable squad: James Vince (c), Mohammad Abbas, Kyle Abbott, Keith Barker, Ben Brown, Liam Dawson, James Fuller, Nick Gubbins, Ian Holland, Felix Organ, Joe Weatherley, Brad Wheal
Gloucestershire on the other hand have used 17 different players already although they have had the misfortune of losing fast bowler Naseem Shah and all-rounder Ben Charlesworth to injury. Their top order looks settled but none of the bowlers have averaged under 30 and they will need the likes of Payne and Amir to step up if they are to get on the winning trail.
Probable squad: Graeme Van Buuren (c), Mohammad Amir, James Bracey (wk), Ajeet Dale, Chris Dent, Marcus Harris, Ryan Higgins, Tom Lace, David Payne, Josh Shaw, Jack Taylor, Matt Taylor
Date: Thursday 5th – Sunday 8th May
Ground: Ageas Bowl, Southampton
Odds (SkyBet): Hampshire 4/7, Gloucestershire 5/4