‘We’re well placed’ – skipper James Vince close  to century as Hampshire dominate Championship fixture against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham

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James Vince illuminated the Cheltenham Festival with a beautifully-crafted knock of 95 to put Hampshire in the ascendancy against Gloucestershire at the halfway stage of this weather-affected LV=County Championship First Division match at the College Ground.

If searing heat caused play to be restricted to 72 overs on day one, day two was beset by interruptions for rain and bad light, a total of 29 overs being lost in all.

Yet Hampshire's captain took it all in his measured stride, holding sway for more than four hours in an innings that spanned 162 balls and was adorned with 12 fours and a six as Hampshire posted 457 in their first innings.

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Felix Organ also went to three figures, registering a career-best total of 118, while hard-hitting Keith Barker blazed his way to a 37-ball half century, dominating a progressive stand of 66 for the seventh wicket with his captain.

James Vince hit 95 on the second day of Hampshire's Championship fixture at Cheltenham. Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)James Vince hit 95 on the second day of Hampshire's Championship fixture at Cheltenham. Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)
James Vince hit 95 on the second day of Hampshire's Championship fixture at Cheltenham. Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Josh Shaw, Zak Chappell, Ryan Higgins and Tom Price were rewarded for their persistence with two wickets apiece, but it was a day of toil in the field for Gloucestershire, who are still seeking their first win of the season in the red-ball format.

Required to negotiate 16 overs in the early-evening gloom, the hosts reached the close on 43 for the loss of openers Chris Dent and Marcus Harris, both given out lbw at the hands of Mohammad Abbas and Liam Dawson respectively.

Although Miles Hammond (12 not out) and nightwatchman Ollie Price (17 not out) benefitted from the fading light that forced Vince to deploy spin instead of pace, their good fortune could not disguise the impression that Gloucestershire, who trail by 414, again find themselves between a proverbial rock and a hard place.

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Vince said: ‘We bowled Warwickshire out to win our last game and I'd say there is a little bit more in this wicket for the bowlers.

‘The plan is to come back in the morning and continue to put them under pressure. Getting the two openers out before the close was a great start, but we need to take more wickets while the ball is still quite new.

‘Hopefully, the light will be better tomorrow and we will be able to play a bit more cricket and use the seamers from the start.

‘The interruptions for bad light did not help, but I was pleased with our first innings score. Hopefully, we can get a bit of sun over the next couple of days and have enough cricket to win the game. It's going to be hard work, but we're well-placed in the game.

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Clearly, there is something about playing against Gloucestershire that brings out the best in Hampshire opener Organ. Having made a career-best score of 107 in a winning cause when last the two sides met at the Ageas Bowl in May, the 23-year-old must have been confident of going to three figures when reaching the close of day one on 93 not out.

The visitors resumed on 203-2 and there was just enough time for Organ to register his second hundred of the season, the Sydney-born right-hander reaching that landmark by clipping Shaw to the square leg boundary for his 17th four, before rain forced the players off and caused 13 overs to be lost.

An early lunch was taken, after which Gloucestershire made good use of the new ball to temporarily interrupt Hampshire's progress. Organ had advanced his score to 118 via 251 balls and helped stage a stand of 81 for the third wicket with his captain when his five and-a-half-hour vigil was summarily ended, Chappell locating his outside edge and James Bracey taking a regulation catch behind with the score on 253.

New batsman Dawson attempted to force the pace thereafter, hooking Chappell for six over fine leg and then taking him for another maximum, this time over mid-wicket, later in the same over. But his luck ran out when, having made 18 from 30 balls, he drove Shaw hard to Graeme van Buuren, who demonstrated safe hands at short mid-wicket.

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Ben Brown also played aggressively, helping himself to five boundaries in a valuable innings of 25, he and Vince adding 44 for the fifth wicket, before Hampshire's wicketkeeper offered a looping return catch to Zafar Gohar in the act of attempting to work him to leg.

While wickets were falling at the other end, Vince remained indomitable, hooking Shaw to the fine leg boundary for his sixth four to raise 50 from 103 balls. His progressive partnership of 42 in eight overs with Aneurin Donald either side of the tea interval ensured the visitors banked a fourth batting bonus point with two overs to spare. By the time he edged a catch behind off Shaw, Donald had garnered 29 from 27 balls with 6 fours.

If Gloucestershire were aided and abetted by heatwave-induced shorter sessions on the first day, their cause was further helped by the four stoppages for rain and bad light that denied Hampshire the opportunity to build sustained momentum with the bat.

That Vince was able to overcome repeated interruptions to his rhythm without offering so much as a glimmer of a chance said a good deal about his powers of concentration. While Barker played a swashbuckling innings of 50 from 38 balls with 7 fours and 2 sixes, Hampshire's captain continued to compile runs steadily.

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Yet just when a hundred appeared his for the taking, the England batsman suffered an unexpected blip, allowing a straight delivery from Tom Price to sneak between bat and pad and dislodge off stump.

Higgins accounted for Barker in the next over, held at cover, and then had Kyle Abbott caught at the wicket, while Tom Price bowled former Gloucestershire man James Fuller as the tail unraveled.

There was still time for Gloucestershire to suffer a double setback. Dent fell to an in-swinging delivery from Mohammad Abbas, while Harris succumbed to a ball that spun out of the rough.

The nature of those two dismissals will afford Hampshire all the encouragement they need on day three.