Hants CCC continue strong start to season
Hampshire County Cricket Club continued their dominant start to the 2021 County Championship with another outstanding all-round performance. Middlesex were the victims this time but to begin with they put up a better fight on day one than Leicestershire.
Skipper James Vince won the toss again and elected to bat again. The decision did not pay immediate dividends after Joe Weatherly was stumped early from the medium pace of Ethan Bamber. Opening partner Ian Holland was untroubled early however as he and Tom Alsop tucked into the bowling of Toby Roland-Jones and Steven Finn. Alsop played some lovely shots on both sides of the wicket as the pair pushed Hampshire to lunch without further loss.
Middlesex fight back
The afternoon session saw Steven Finn strike in signature fashion, a rising ball hooked with no control straight to a fielder to see Alsop depart for 19. Holland was once again unperturbed. He brought up his fifty from 119 deliveries and was in no mood to stop, with his batting average as an opener in the championship rising over 40. Sam Northeast had joined Holland at the crease just in time to see Holland nick Finn to third slip, bringing last week’s double centurion Vince to the crease.
A waft outside off stump, a little bit of movement away and Vince was gone for just 9. Northeast played a punchy innings of 64 as his side lost Dawson and Mcmanus. The latter leaving a beautiful delivery that turned the other way from Nathan Sowter. This wicket brought Kyle Abbott to the crease, a player who has developed his batting vastly in recent seasons, he stuck around as Northeast fell trying to add further runs.
Day two saw Abbott score 58 with able support from the tail, seeing Hampshire Cricket end their first innings on 318, Finn taking 4 wickets.
Abbas magic finishes game
Then Hampshire’s Pakistan overseas bowler Mohammad Abbas took centre-stage, taking a hat-trick as he never left his off-stump line, reducing Middlesex to 14-5. The first six wickets fell to Abbas who was untouchable in his first spell. Some mild resistance saw Middlesex limp to 79 all out, Brad Wheal cleaning up the tail with 3-9. He is one of the best seam bowlers in the world.
Hampshire’s second innings saw Middlesex briefly dare to dream of a comeback when Bamber and Roland-Jones removed Weatherly and Alsop with score on just 2. Holland and Northeast had other ideas. It was fairly plain sailing from the pair as they brought up their second fifty each in the match. There aren’t many better players to add some calm to an innings than Sam Northeast. He and Holland took the game firmly from Middlesex’s grasp in the evening session, hunting centuries. Northeast ended day 2 on 99 not out, having to wait for the morning to complete his tonne.
Northeast and Holland pile on the misery
Day three began with Northeast completing his 25th first-class century. Holland followed suit soon after, the USA international hitting Sowter through midwicket. There was no respite for Middlesex as the pair combined for some eye-catching shots all around the ground. Northeast went for one too many however and was bowled for a brilliant 118 when trying to hit Finn out of Hedge-End.
Finn then had Vince LBW for 0 in his next over but it meant little as Hampshire declared on 290. Holland was unbeaten on 146, his highest first class score. This meant that Middlesex required an improbable 531 to win.
Sam Robson and Max Holden did at least hold firm until lunch, previously they had been five wickets down at the same point. Abbas then broke through early after lunch to dismiss Robson and Abbott then removed Holden in the next over. To nobody’s surprise, Abbas then had Stevie Eskinazi caught at slip for the third wicket in three overs.
Nick Gubbins and Robbie White then put on a 50 partnership to take them past their first innings score with just three wickets down. Ian Holland continued his strong form by having Gubbins taken at slip by Liam Dawson. Robbie White then brought up his fifty and carried on accumulating alongside Martin Andersson to bring Middlesex to the close on 208-4.
Middlesex hopes extinguished
Going into day four with almost three times their first innings total, there was a sliver of hope for Middlesex. It was not to be however as Holland trapped White infront for 73 and a daft shot from Andersson gave him his second of the morning. Abbas and Abbott then took the new ball and worked through Roland-Jones and Simpson quickly.
Sowter – first innings top scorer – went LBW to Abbott, leaving Hampshire Cricket with one wicket to wrap up victory. Finn and Bamber resisted bravely but when the latter edged Dawson behind, Hampshire had a 249 run victory and sat top of their group.
Somerset up next for Hampshire
A stern test faces Hampshire Cricket next as they face Somerset but with the West Country side slightly out of touch, especially with the bat, Abbas and Abbott may again be excited to get their hands on the new Dukes.
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