By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE CRICKET returned to red ball cricket with a huge victory as they hosted Northamptonshire at the Ageas Bowl, winning by an innings and four runs in the final session to leapfrog Surrey at the summit of County Championship Division One on Thursday. And it was a brilliant home win featuring multiple weather related interruptions as the hosts made a good score with the bat before they took all twenty wickets; taking maximum points to keep their title dreams alive going into the final two matches of this 2022 cricket season.
The visitors started brilliantly after electing to bowl first as they took their opening wicket within just 11 balls, Jack White bowling Ian Holland for a golden duck to leave Hampshire on 4-1. But against the swinging new ball in tricky batting conditions Felix Organ and Joe Weatherley showed great tenacity despite some missed drives, steadily preventing any more breakthrough as they reached 31-1 off the first hour before rain stopped play. An early lunch was taken at midday with play finally resuming at 2:15pm following a period of bad light.
Organ set the tone for the afternoon session with a flurry of boundaries to pass the score past fifty, but he did lose his second batting partner as Weatherley (14) was caught at second slip for 56-2. But the young opener was undisturbed as he continued to attack the bowlers alongside Nick Gubbins as he peppered the leg side with scoring opportunities, bringing up his personal half century off 88 balls; Gubbins adding twenty-three off 47 balls before he was bowled by Luke Proctor’s delivery as Hampshire reached 129-3 going to a tea break.
A fourth wicket followed in the afternoon session as James Vince edged behind for nineteen including 3 good boundaries, whilst Organ (71) followed him back to the pavilion seven overs later as he feathered off the bat from White for 167-5 featuring twelve 4s in nearly four hours at the crease. But this was the final dismissal of day one as Liam Dawson and Aneurin Donald put on sixty-two unbeaten runs as they sealed their 1st bonus batting point; failing artificial light ending play just after 6pm with the home side in arguable control on 229-5.
Day two started with an early wicket as Liam Dawson (44) was caught driving to second slip with the seventh ball, Donald building on his score to reach fifty off just 53 balls as Hampshire reached 273-6 before light rain ended the morning session prematurely after thirty minutes. Play again resumed after an earlier lunch break and Northamptonshire were immediately celebrating as Proctor found the gap to bowl Keith Barker with the first ball of the afternoon session, bringing James Fuller together alongside Donald on 273-7 in the 71st over.
And the pair launched an outstanding counter attack before the new ball was called; Donald taking a centre stage as he added two maximums to his fifteen fours to approach a century but was sadly dismissed for 94 by Josh Cobb’s straight delivery. Kyle Abbott took over the mantle of attacking despite a 9th wicket of Fuller (26) with fifty seven runs including seven fours and two 6s; the South African remaining unbeaten alongside Mohammed Abbas when Vince declared on 400-9 after ninety overs with all 4 bonus batting points secured.
In response away openers Will Young and Emilo Gay started impeccably against a confident bowling attack with the ball showing similar movement than day one off the pitch. Eight boundaries alongside quick running singles were scored by the pair in their steady but untroubled stand of sixty runs within twenty overs; Abbott making the big crucial breakthrough as he trapped Young (27) leg-before with a low straight delivery, Proctor scoring 9 further runs in seven overs before bad light signalled stumps as Northants closed day two on 77-1.
Overnight showers forced a forty-five minute delay to day three, but Hampshire didn’t mind as they took the second wicket with just three runs added to the score; Barker forcing a shot from Gay (33) that was brilliantly caught at mid-wicket for 80-2. This score was 95-4 just eleven overs later as Cobb (2) clipped to first slip and Rob Keogh was dismissed by Abbott for a duck, Ricardo Vasconcelos (9) becoming the fifth wicket to fall as he was caught off Abbas as Northants reached 124-5 at lunch as they added 47 runs in this shorter session.
A sixth wicket and second bowling point were secured within seven balls of the afternoon as Barker bowled James Sales for 10. Proctor (40) became the seventh batsman to fall after his lengthy spell at the crease as he was caught off Fuller, who further took the scalp of Tom Taylor for 164-8 after sixty-one overs. And the 1st innings was complete for 175 all out with Abbott removing Lizaad Williams for five before he claimed the 10th wicket of Ben Sanderson; helping his captain to enforce the batting follow on with a sizable lead of 225 runs.
Forced to bat again Young and Gay continued their first innings into the second one, this time adding 98 runs off twenty-seven overs with the latter looking confident either side of tea as he reached a fifty. This stand was ended with Young edging behind to Donald for twenty runs featuring multiple boundaries, with Proctor adding another 19 before being caught off Barker following 30 minutes at the crease. Amidst the carnage it was Gay who extended his personal score to 74 but he was trapped LBW just before the close with scores on 137-3.
A result looked unlikely with bad Southampton weather forcing a delay to day four, with proceedings starting at 1:30pm following a brilliant clean-up operation. And although Hampshire were frustrated with a stand of 24 runs, a fourth wicket arrived within six overs as Keogh was trapped LBW for fourteen off 23 balls as bowlers started to believe. Bizarre scenes then followed when Cobb (22) was dismissed moments after players were heading off to rain only to be called back; Northants fuming at the early tea break as they lingered at 177-5.
Sales (3) was dismissed driving to second slip just after the resumption by Abbas; Vasconcelos and Taylor pushing their side past 200 runs as they looked to make Hampshire bat again. The former hit Barker for six to take arrears below twenty before the bowler avenged him by trapping him LBW for 20, whilst Abbas took a quick double as he took wickets of Taylor (11) caught behind and Sanderson (2) hitting his stumps at 218-9. And victory was secured three runs later when Fuller bowled White for a duck, just as rain showers arrived.
With Surrey not in action this week, Hampshire are now in pole position and sit eight points over their rivals although they have a game in hand due to be played from Monday morning. In contrast Hampshire will get one week off before hosting Kent from September 20 at the Ageas Bowl, before finishing the season with an away trip to Warwickshire six days later in their quest for County Championship glory; most likely requiring Surrey to slip up more than once to add this title to the Vitality Blast successes secured on finals day in July.
PICTURED BY HAMPSHIRE CRICKET (GETTY IMAGES): Fielders and wicketkeeper appeal for a LBW as they look for quick wickets; taking all twenty to take victory despite large rain interruptions throughout game.