HAMPSHIRE showed some much-needed character as they fought back on day two of their Championship clash at Middlesex.
Jimmy Adams’ side suffered a miserable opening day at Lord’s as they were bowled out for just 176 before the home side got off to a pacy start to reach 59 without loss.
But Hampshire had pegged Middlesex back to 298 for eight at stumps on day two – a deficit of 122 runs.
The visitors had much the better of the morning session as they dragged themselves back into contention with five wickets before lunch.
Brad Wheal (three for 83) picked up two wickets in three balls – including England one-day skipper, Eoin Morgan for a second-ball duck – as Middlesex reached 144 for five at the break.
Gareth Berg (two for 47) pinned Sam Robson (17) with the third ball of the day before Jackson Bird (two for 77) picked up Paul Stirling (39) in the second over, caught low down at second slip by James Vince.
Joe Burns (13) lost his middle stump to Wheal via an inside edge as he played back in the 27th over before Morgan chased width and was well taken at first slip.
Berg then went round the wicket to remove James Franklin (5), who was caught behind.
But Middlesex then regained the upper hand in the afternoon session with Nick Compton (87) and John Simpson (64) putting on 111 for the sixth wicket.
Compton mixed good defence with some solid strokeplay, particularly through the off side, in three and three-quarter hours before he came down the pitch to attack left-arm spinner Danny Briggs and was well held low down at slip by Will Smith.
Simpson laboured diligently for three hours 40 minutes, making the most of a reprieve on 45 when he was put down by Bird at mid-off from Berg’s bowling.
Ollie Rayner (34 not out) pushed the lead beyond 100 as application and patience were required on a batting track that was starting to misbehave.
Berg bowled James Harris (15) with a pea-roller just before the close, which suggests batting is unlikely to get any easier.
First-team coach Dale Benkenstein felt it was a far more positive day for his team.
He said: ‘It was much better. Day one it was tougher conditions and the wicket did a little bit.
‘Middlesex bowled well but not well enough to have us 176 all out with the batting in our team.
‘We looked a little bit low on confidence but to come out and bowl and keep them to 240 for eight in the day is a positive for us, even though we are behind the eight-ball again.
‘If we can have some runs on the board and make them bat last, it still gives us a chance.’
Benkenstein also had praise for young bowler Wheal on his Lord’s debut.
He said: ‘The ball was more consistently in the right place and with someone of his age, he will only get better.
‘It can be a really daunting place to play cricket.’