Edwards doubles up to leave Hampshire in the hunt

Fidel Edwards bowled a six over stint of two for 15 Picture: Neil Marshall

Hampshire head coach Craig White is anticipating a crunch opening hour of play today as his side chase Specsavers County Championship glory against Essex at the Ageas Bowl.

The hosts trail the visitors by 69 nine runs after the third day proved much of a washout, with only 20 overs played.

Essex, who were skittled out for 76 in their first innings before being forced to follow on, closed on 247 for five – adding to their overnight total of 208 for three.

Fidel Edwards produced a brutal evening spell of fast bowling to take the two vital wickets.

And it was intervention in the 12 overs played after the resumption of action at 5.20pm that provided White with hope that a commanding victory remains very much in Hampshire’s sights.

‘Those 12 overs were a nice bonus,’ said White.

‘It was a long day waiting and we sensed a perfect opportunity – it was the perfect time to bowl and we got two crucial wickets.

‘Fidel has had a stop-start season with injuries and has never really got going.

‘He has got a good rhythm at the moment and when he gets going he is still a class bowler.

‘It is a big first hour for us in the morning.

‘If we can chip away with two or three in that hour and then bowl them out by lunchtime then we might be chasing 100-120 and that is ideal.’

Only eight overs, with just 18 runs added, were able to be completed before rain washed out the majority of the day.

But following a quick clean up from the groundsmen, play resumed at 5.20pm for a 12-over burst.

Having taken the new ball in the last two overs before the rain began, Edwards stuck with just the third delivery after the re-start.

Ravi Bopara had battled hard alongside Dan Lawrence to put on 147 and drag Essex into the lead.

But then the former England all-rounder edged to James Vince at second slip off a beautifully-shaped away swinger.

Lawrence rode his luck with plays and misses on day two, 45 of them according to Hampshire’s analysts, but took to thick edges through third man to close in on his three figures.

He eventually completed his seventh first-class ton from 207 balls with a firm push down the ground.

But after facing just two more deliveries, Edwards produced a ferocious bouncer to find the England Lions man’s glove to have him caught behind for 101.

Jamie Porter entered with six overs to go as a night watchman and he, along with captain Ryan ten Doeschate, negotiated Essex to the close without a further dismissal.

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