Spinner gives Hampshire hope after tough baptism

New signing Friedel de Wet was wicketless on day one. Picture: Neil Marshall

New signing Friedel de Wet was wicketless on day one. Picture: Neil Marshall

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Hampshire know if they are to make any kind of challenge for the County Championship crown this year, they will face some tough days along the way.

But they may not have expected such a baptism on day one of the new season.

As a new campaign dawns, umbrellas and winter coats are normally the order of the day with fielders trying to stop their hands turning blue.

But the 2011 term kicked off in dazzling sunshine and warm temperatures, with the Hampshire fielders chasing leather for much of the day.

They were given a glimpse of what was in store in the first couple of hours as Durham raced to 84 without loss in just 22 overs – a healthy scoring rate for a four-day game.

Simon Jones, new signing Friedel de Wet and skipper Dominic Cork failed to make an early breakthrough, so the latter turned to a man in form.

Danny Briggs may look like an unassuming teenager when he doesn’t have a ball in his hands.

But his four for 127 at least gave his side a lifeline.

His efforts on the England Lions tour this winter have marked him out as a spinner with a huge future and after removing Michael Di Venuto (42), Briggs then skittled Durham’s other opener Mark Stoneman (51) to drag his side back into the game at 116 for two at lunch.

Jones took care of Ben Stokes (10) soon after the restart but Gordon Muchall (62) and Dale Benkenstein (118) then combined for a 100-run stand before Ian Blackwell (62) joined the latter to add 136. Briggs, though, returned later to dismiss them both.

Benkenstein hardly looked troubled in his classy 154-ball innings – which included two sixes and 13 fours – before the Hampshire spinner struck in consecutive overs.

Phil Mustard then added a quickfire 39 not out as the visitors closed on 413 for six.

Letting Durham breeze past 400 on day one would not have been in the Hampshire script.

And unless they make early inroads today and launch a positive response with the bat, Cork’s side are in serious danger of staring down the barrel of defeat in the season’s opener.

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