James Vince answered Hampshire’s critics with a fabulous century as the misfiring middle order rediscovered their form in style.
The 20-year-old blazed a superb 157 – only his second Championship century after last season’s 180 at Lancashire – to help the Rose Bowl outfit to a first innings total of 480 all out, after three days of their clash with Sussex.
While the game appears to be heading for a draw unless something remarkable happens on day four, it will be a major relief to manager Giles White that Vince and Johann Myburgh (80) built a formidable partnership under serious pressure.
Resuming on 145 for three overnight in response to Sussex’s 438 all out, Hampshire knew they required a solid batting display.
But Vince – who started the morning on 15 not out – shone with an innings of determination, longevity and some fluent strokes as he faced 283 balls and hammered 22 fours and one six before he was finally dismissed.
Vince said: ‘The middle order hasn’t scored as many runs as it should have done this year so it was nice to get some runs.
‘It was just a matter of time before the middle order scored some runs so it’s a good day for the Hampshire team.
‘The coaching staff were behind all of us but it’s a funny game.
‘It all depends on form and once you get a few things go your way, then you can pile some runs on.
‘I just took it ball by ball. I’m pretty tired, both mentally and physically but I wanted to be out there as long as possible.’
Vince and Myburgh enjoyed a fruitful partnership that yielded 178 runs and took the team unscathed into the afternoon session.
Nic Pothas (28) and Dominic Cork (50) made decent contributions, with the latter making an exaggerated gesture of defiance towards the press box after reaching his half-century, in response to what he perceived to be negative reports in certain newspapers.
Sean Ervine (19) was dismissed in bizarre fashion as he trod on his stumps to dislodge a bail but Hampshire will be delighted to hold a 42-run first-innings lead after some of their batting woes this season.
And Vince has not yet ruled out a late twist in this encounter as they chase their first Championship win of the campaign.
He said: ‘The wicket has deteriorated a bit so if we can come at them hard in the morning we might be able to get a win out of the game.
‘We’ve got a lead and we’ve got some bowlers who can put the opposition under pressure. A couple of early wickets and you never know how the game might go.’
Meanwhile, Jimmy Adams has been reported by the umpires for his show of dissent at his dismissal on Thursday but is likely to escape with a warning.