By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE CRICKET were forced to settle for a frustrating stalemate against Lancashire on Sunday afternoon in their latest County Championship encounter, with persistent rain and bad light in Southampton abandoning all play on the fourth and final day. It capped an anti-climactic conclusion to a match that could have gone either way as the last ball was bowled on Saturday evening, with personal achievements such as Nick Gubbins scoring two centuries, a five-for by Keith Barker and six wickets by James Anderson potentially losing some sparkle due to the result that doesn’t help either side at this very early stage of 2022.
Batting first under grey skies Hampshire started badly as they lost Joe Weatherley for one to Tom Bailey’s inswinging delivery, whilst England legend Anderson removed Ian Holland (4) and James Vince (2) to leave the hosts struggling on 19-3 after nine overs. This soon became 40-5 as Hassan Ali took the wickets of Liam Dawson (8) and Ben Brown for a duck as the new ball swung both ways in the first hour. However in contrast the second hour of the first session saw the ball settle down, allowing Felix Organ and Gubbins, the mainstay, showing huge patience to reach 69-5 at the day 1 lunch interval.
The batting pair continued their partnership to over fifty runs after lunch, with Gubbins showing a more tempered approach in reaching his half-century off 133 balls to bring Hampshire past the hundred mark. Supported by Organ (42), the partnership was ended on ninety two when Anderson had the all-rounder caught behind with a short ball; Barker also quickly dismissed with a looping edge off Ali to leave Hampshire on 146-7. These two wickets saw Lancashire seal their second bowling point, but were unable to make further inroads with Gubbins and James Fuller reaching 194-7 at tea following some big hits from the latter.
A first batting point was secured just one ball into the evening session as Fuller smashed George Balderson for six, but this run rate did slow slightly as their 83 run partnership continued against the spinners with the new ball looming But this wasn’t ultimately needed as Fuller was bowled by Luke Wells just after reaching his fifty, with Ali wrapping up the tail with his five wicket haul dismissing both Kyle Abbott and Mohamed Abbas; leaving Gubbins out of partners after hitting 101* as Hampshire were all out for 246 after 77 overs.
Under brighter skies in the final hour of day one, Lancashire batted well against the new ball without any real hassle as they reached 37-1 at stumps; the only wicket to fall being Wells as he trickled behind a Barker delivery. But similar to day one, the second morning started under grey skies with the ball seaming; allowing Abbas to take the early wicket of night-watchman Danny Lamb to make it 39-2 in the twentieth over. And it soon got worse for the Red Rose as they were reduced to 130-7 at lunch either side of a counter attack; Josh Bohannon (33) and Dane Villers (6) out to Barker, Abbott dismissing Balderson (15), Steven Croft (11) caught off Abbas and Rob Jones (3) edging a Fuller ball to the wicketkeeper.
After both being dropped in the morning session Phil Salt and Bailey continued their 8th wicket partnership as the ball started to age, with the latter dominating the offside with several placed boundaries and the former milking the bowlers with good running between the wickets; both scoring half centuries as Lancashire reached the 200 mark just after Bailey (55) was dismissed off a fine catch. But Ali joined Salt (59) at the crease and added a valuable 19 runs, but the Red Rose were unable to take a first innings lead as they were dismissed for 240 all out; Barker taking both wickets in his 5-67 with Anderson stranded for an unbeaten five.
Starting with a six run lead in their second innings, both Hampshire openers were dismissed cheaply to leave them 12-2; Weatherley caught off Anderson for a duck and Holland trapped LBW from Ali for three. But Gubbins and Vince joined together to bat themselves out of a sticky situation throughout the evening session, playing many glorious shots to put on 58 runs in ten overs before the latter was pinned in front by Anderson; a decision that left the Hampshire captain fuming. Another LBW appeal on Gubbins was denied by the umpire shortly afterwards, with his partnership with Dawson added thirty-three unbeaten runs before bad light ended day two early; losing five overs as the hosts finished on 103-3 going into the third day’s play.
With an older ball and blue skies on Saturday, batting was slightly easier for Hampshire despite the dismissal of Dawson (24) as he was trapped LBW to become Anderson’s sixth wicket across both innings to make it 114-4. In response Gubbins reached his half century mark with two successive boundaries following slow progress as Brown joined him at the crease; the pair the pair adding 68 unbeaten runs throughout the morning session with scores of 75 and 30 not out at lunch, the only scare being a loud appeal for caught behind turned down by the umpire as the ball failed to carry to the wicketkeeper. This meant that Hampshire led by 188 runs at the interval and in control of proceedings, despite the commentators suggesting it was ‘still in the balance’ if a flurry of wickets were to fall in the afternoon session.
But Brown and Gubbins continued their solid risk-free approach as they took Hampshire past 200, the latter reaching his own half century in the seventy-fifth over off 98 balls. The one hundred partnership was then reached before Gubbins confirmed his second century of the match by punching through the covers for four to make it 226-4 off 79.1 overs, raising his bat emotionally before continuing to build. The left handed batter, alongside Brown, saw off the immediate threat of the new ball and passed the 250 mark before the latter was stuck LBW by Lamb and departed for 72 runs off 160 balls to end a partnership of one-hundred & forty-four.
Organ was then dismissed the next over to bring Barker to the crease as Hampshire reached 269-6 at tea, the run-rate increasing in the evening session as the lead passed 300 with a brief flurry of boundaries. And with a lead of 312 Gubbins was finally dismissed for 130 as Lamb got him LBW, ending a fine display that combined 231 runs off 515 deliveries throughout both innings in a long spell at the crease. From this point the last three wickets fell quickly despite adding another thirty-nine runs as Barker (40) chipped to cover, Fuller (21) was bowled and Abbas was dismissed for another duck as Hampshire were all out for 344 in the final stages of day three; Lancashire chasing 351 runs to win and batted six overs to finish day three on 9-0.
With Lancashire needing another 342 to seal victory and Hampshire wanted ten wickets to overtake Surrey at the top of the division, the fourth and final day began in tantalising fashion as fans began to enter the Ageas Bowl. But sadly weather conditions didn’t play into this huge optimism as light rain began falling from around 10:30am to delay the start of play, with persistent drizzle lasting throughout the whole morning and afternoon sessions as hopes of a result began to evaporate. And despite Hampshire’s bid to get onto the field to enhance their over rate of -1, the umpires confirmed the draw after a 5pm pitch inspection to the backdrop of players kicking footballs around on the surface with the covers on the crease.
Both sides claim twelve points for their efforts in a result that doesn’t change current positions in the Division One table, Hampshire sitting second behind Surrey with 61 points after four matches and Lancashire in third with a game in hand with two wins from three. The Red Rose now host fifth place Warwickshire at Emirates Old Trafford whilst Hampshire will return to the Ageas Bowl to face Gloucestershire, both matches starting on Thursday morning and set to finish next Sunday at the latest. A two week break will then await Hampshire despite a friendly against Sri Lanka Cricket Development XI before they face an away clash at Somerset.
PICTURED BY HAMPSHIRE CRICKET MEDIA: Scoreboard at the Ageas Bowl on day four with match evenly poised and this ultimately didn’t change, persistent rain abandoning all play on the final day.