HAMPSHIRE endured another miserable day in an increasingly worrying campaign as they made an awful start to their Championship clash with Middlesex.
Jimmy Adams’ side were put to the sword in a nine-wicket loss to Somerset last week and were then blitzed by Essex with a 78-run defeat in the Natwest T20 Blast on Friday night.
But as they went in search of a change in their fortunes at Lord’s, it was not forthcoming as they turned in another abject batting display and were bowled out for just 176 on a rain-affected day.
High-flying Middlesex then made a positive start to their first innings as they rattled along to 59 without loss in just 13 overs.
Only Joe Gatting on his Championship return, with a combative 64 not out, held up Middlesex for long as Toby Roland-Jones (four for 64) and James Harris (four for 48) ripped through Hampshire’s batting line-up.
Skipper Adams went for a two-ball duck for the worst possible start but Sean Terry (23) battled hard before Roland-Jones made one go up the Lord’s slope just enough to have the right-handed opener caught behind the stumps.
A rain delay accounted for 18 overs as an early lunch was taken with Hampshire at 30 for two.
But Michael Carberry (15) departed in the fourth over after the restart, offering no stroke to be trapped lbw to Roland-Jones.
Hampshire were then 55 for four when James Vince was bowled for 13 driving loosely at Harris and although Adam Wheater (17) played a couple of nice shots, he was bowled shouldering arms to Murtagh.
Will Smith (18) became another victim for Roland-Jones and even the in-form Gareth Berg (10) was unable to provide his usual rescue act down the order on this occasion.
Playing against the county he served for seven seasons from 2008, the South African was brilliantly caught off Roland-Jones by Nick Compton, who flung himself to his left from gully.
Danny Briggs (eight) edged behind, fencing at Harris.
And the same bowler then removed Brad Wheal for three and ended the Hampshire first innings by having Jackson Bird caught at second slip for one.
Thankfully for Hampshire, the recalled Gatting came up with a vital counter-atack, even though he lost partners at regular intervals.
Batting at number seven in place of the injured Sean Ervine, he reached a spirited half-century with a six swung effortlessly into the grandstand off Harris and faced 86 balls with seven fours before he was left high and dry.
Middlesex hit back with Paul Stirling (36 not out) firing seven fours and Sam Robson (17 not out) combining.
The home side already look in a great position to press for victory unless Hampshire can respond.