Hampshire produced an impressive fightback to recover from a dreadful flurry of dropped catches – but then suffered a late batting collapse on day one of their Championship contest at Northamptonshire.
Giles White’s side appeared to be haunted by some of their old fielding frustrations as the home side looked set to make a mockery of being put into bat by stand-in skipper Simon Katich.
But that decision eventually proved to be a good one – as soon as the slip fielders remembered that they were on catching duty.
With Katich again filling in as captain in the continued absence of Jimmy Adams for personal reasons, winning the toss looked a crucial advantage as he predictably invited the home side to bat under overcast skies in Northampton.
However, at 68 for no wicket and after some comical spills, Hampshire had surrendered that initiative and were on the back foot.
Sean Ervine was the first culprit.
He put down a regulation chance at third slip from David Balcombe’s bowling, as Stephen Peters escaped with Northamptonshire at 15 without loss.
But Hamza Riazuddin’s attempt at short mid-wicket – somehow spilling a looped shot straight at him with the home side at 58 without loss – would have seen him targeted for some serious abuse from his team-mates in a village game, with Balcombe again the luckless bowler.
Liam Dawson at last showed how it was done to make the breakthrough for Balcombe, and he later took an even better catch with a diving effort to dismiss Andrew Hall.
But Katich needed three attempts at slip to remove Rob Newton (39), before Ervine shelled another sitter to let David Sales off the hook from David Griffiths’ delivery – only to make amends with the very next ball with a much harder catch.
That seemed to spur the visitors on and Ervine (three for 39) and Chris Wood (four for 52) then carried the attack, with only Kyle Coetzer (41) hanging around for any length of time.
While the Wantage Road pitch offered plenty of encouragement for the bowlers, it is by no means a minefield and 218 all out looked light considering the home side’s opening stand.
In fact, their final seven wickets fell for 66 runs but, in reply, Hampshire struggled themselves as they limped to the close at 42 for three.
Sean Terry (12) departed soon after receiving a painful blow on the arm, nightwatchman Riazuddin (nought) left a straight one and Michael Carberry (four) was also sent packing before the close to taint an otherwise encouraging start to the game.