McKenzie digs deep as Hants battle back

Neil McKenzie hit 97 not out for Hampshire on day two
Neil McKenzie hit 97 not out for Hampshire on day two
Shahid Afridi. Picture: Neil Marshall

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NEIL McKENZIE described every run as ‘gold’ after his stubborn 97 not out gave Hampshire’s survival bid a major boost at the Rose Bowl.

The batsman was the mainstay of the hosts’ first innings on day two of the County Championship clash with Nottinghamshire – scoring almost half of his side’s runs thanks to a four-and-a-half hour stay at the crease.

And with young seamer Chris Wood restricting the visitors to 35 for three in reply, Hampshire – who are still looking for their first four-day win of the summer – hold a 178-run lead going into day three of the crucial division one match.

McKenzie was delighted that his belligerent knock had helped put his side in pole position.

‘I’ve played a lot of prettier knocks than that but given the circumstances I was pleased – it was hard work and I had to apply myself,’ he said.

‘I just looked to bat some time. It was crucial for us to try to bat as long as we could.

‘I like to be positive against the spinners, so I had to curb my natural game against them.

‘We needed a couple of partnerships and I looked to stay in and be the mainstay at that stage.

‘I just tried to stay patient and pick up runs where I could because every run on that wicket is gold.’

The South African was also quick to pay tribute to left-armer Wood, who ended the day with superb figures of three for 19.

‘Chris came in there and made it swing around,’ added McKenzie. ‘He hit the deck hard and got three of them back in the hut.

‘There was a bit of swing in the morning and then again in the afternoon. Everyone was looking at the spinners but the seamers have done some real damage up front.

‘It’s always nice to have three early wickets and put them under pressure, and then spin’s going to come into it later on in the game.

‘Scoring hasn’t been easy on that track, so we want to keep the economy rate down and let the wickets take care of themselves.’

Despite 13 wickets going down in the day and ECB pitch inspection officials keen to have another look at the surface today, McKenzie had no complaints with the wicket.

He added: ‘It’s a good challenge out there – sometimes you turn up to county wickets and they’re really green and all for the seamers.

‘Here, we knew it was going to be tough with the spinners.

‘But the way the seamers from both sides have stuck to their guns and run in, it’s good for both sides.

‘There hasn’t been any variable bounce and there hasn’t been spin going up or down.

‘They have been balls that have just grabbed the outside edge.’