By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE CRICKET were victorious in their opening County Championship encounter as James Vince’s side thrashed potential title-challengers Somerset by an innings and 113 runs at the Ageas Bowl, capping the win with almost maximum points within two and a half days. It was a wonderful and controlled performance as everybody contributed using bat or ball on an ever-changing surface; Somerset suffering two batting collapses across both innings as they failed to score 200+ runs in sunny spring-like conditions throughout.
Electing to bat after winning the toss Somerset struggled against a direct bowling attack consistent with line and length despite strong cross winds; Mohammed Abbas seeing Ben Green taken at 2nd slip and Lewis Goldworthy pinned in front for LBW. His bowling partner Kyle Abbott added the scalp of away captain Tom Abell for a single, whilst Ian Holland had Tom Lammonby caught behind and Steve Davis was bowled by a jagging delivery by Keith Barker. This left Somerset at 61-5 at the lunch interval with Hampshire fully dominant on a lively surface, taking advantage of injuries in the away ranks and securing a bowling point.
James Hildreth and Roelof van der Merve joined together in the second session, mixing control and aggression as they added 73 runs in nineteen overs before the latter had his bails trimmed by James Fuller. It soon got worse when Hildreth was dismissed by Liam Dawson’s leg spin delivery for eighty-seven to leave Somerset on 158-7 and ultimately lost their last three wickets for twenty runs to leave them 180 all out after sixty-four overs; Barker talking two wickets and Dawson finishing off the innings to secure all 3 bonus points.
Joe Weatherley came together with Holland on a flattering surface that made batting easier after tea, driving home Hampshire’s advantage against an under-strength bowling attack; the former reaching his half century after 83 balls including six boundaries without alarm. He was backed up brilliantly by Holland who added 41 not out before the close as the pair reached 109-0 at stumps to put the hosts on top, just seventy-one runs behind Somerset after brilliantly absorbing pressure with the new ball throughout the evening session.
The batsmen continued their solid partnership at the start of day two, Holland passing his own half century before being caught for 81 off Van Der Merwe’s bowling with the scores level. But Weatherley was still dominating the bowling attack and reached three figures with the support of Nick Gubbins (37) with a partnership of eighty-three, whilst captain James Vince did similar in a long spell at the crease that built Hampshire’s lead deep into the afternoon as they reached 300 in the 81st over as the new ball was taken.
Weatherley reached the 150 mark before he was dismissed adding another eighteen runs in a career best total as a Peter Siddle delivery crashed into his stumps in the eighty-ninth over to leave Hampshire on 324-3 with a huge lead of 150+. This was quickly followed by Dawson falling the next over to a delivery from Ned Leonard for his only wicket, whilst Vince became the fifth wicket to fall caught behind off Marchant de Lange after reaching his own half century and securing the fourth batting point for Hampshire at 353-5 before tea.
Runs seemed to flow quickly for the hosts in the third session of day two, but this came at a price of regular wickets as Ben Brown (18) and Felix Organ (21) were both dismissed by Green in quick succession leaving Hampshire on 394-7. Barker (18) and Fuller (17) took the hosts past the four hundred mark without adding a fifth batting point before the latter was dismissed by a seaming ball from Siddle; the new batsman Abbott being sent back to the pavilion for a duck with the score on 418-9. Another ten runs were scored before Barker became the third wicket for Green as Somerset kept plugging away to reduce the hosts to 428 all out in the last hour, leading by a huge total despite losing eight wickets throughout the afternoon for 104 runs.
Trailing by 248 runs, openers Green and Lammonby survived the final six overs of day two to resume the third morning on 15-0; a partnership that stretched into an unbroken half century throughout the first hour of day three. But this defiant display of calm batting was quickly ended by Fuller, who dismissed both batsman alongside Abell in a blistering three overs to leave Somerset on 57-3 after twenty-five overs. It soon got worse for the visitors as a short twenty-six run partnership between Goldsworthy and Hildreth was ended by Abbott on the stroke of lunch; the latter batter bowled by a fine yorker delivery that slammed into the stumps leaving Somerset on 83-4 at the interval and facing a huge innings defeat at a sun-soaked Ageas Bowl.
And any minimal hope of a Somerset rear-guard were soon destroyed with four wickets to leave them on 95-8; Abbas dismissing all of Davis, van der Merwe and Siddle in a devastating spell of fast bowling that dismantled the middle order with Barker removing Goldworthy for 19 down the other end. Dawson then removed Leonard after a brief partnership with Kasey Aldridge (25*) for the ninth wicket before Hampshire confirmed an innings victory with Abbas (4-22) bowling the stumps of de Lange for eight runs; Somerset all out for 135 after fifty-one overs to lose by an innings and 113 runs as Saturday afternoon reached 3pm.
Hampshire recorded twenty-three points from the opening game and were the only team to win their first match; the other three encounters across County Championship Division One ending in draws on Sunday afternoon. Their next fixture will see them travel to Surrey to contest a four day league game at the Kia Oval over Easter before they face a trip to Kent starting on April 21 (Thursday), whilst Hampshire will return to the Ageas Bowl to play Lancashire the following week as they seek to continue this brilliant start to the season.
PICTURED BY HAMPSHIRE CRICKET: Home players celebrate a wicket for Liam Dawson as they thrash Somerset at the Ageas Bowl, winning by an innings within three days in Southampton.