Kyle Abbott has targeted 50 wickets for Hampshire after putting his side on the way to another Championship victory.
The South African turned in yet another impressive bowling display, taking five for 44 as Essex were bowled out for just 121 in reply to Hampshire’s 286.
James Vince then hit a fabulous unbeaten 154 and Will Smith hit 78 not out as Hampshire reached 264 for two at stumps – a mighty lead of 429.
But while Vince was in scintillating form with the bat, it was Abbott who was the star of the morning session as he took his season’s Championship haul to 32 wickets.
And he believes the half-century should be within reach, even though he will be jetting off for international duty next month and returning to his South African club, Sunfoil Dolphins, before the end of the season.
Abbott said: ‘It would be nice to get to 50 wickets.
‘I am pretty much averaging six wickets per game so if I keep doing what I’m doing, it will take care of itself.
‘You never know what is going to happen. I feel fit and strong and if I keep doing what I have been doing, cricket takes care of itself.
‘I have got three games left after this one against Surrey, Gloucestershire and one four-day game in August when I come back.
‘But I have only signed until August because I am playing in the Champions League in September as I am contracted to play for the Dolphins.
‘I think I would have settled for 32 wickets at this stage of the season.
‘It was always going to be a case of sticking to my guns and doing what I do.
‘I do like to be stingy with my runs. I don’t like to go for a lot of runs and I have leaked a few here and there.
‘I knew if I came here and was patient, bowled at the top of off stump and did the boring stuff, I would get my rewards.
‘It does swing and nip around and I think I have put it in the right area for long periods of time.’
The 26-year-old is thriving in English conditions and even on the flatter pitches, he believes there is plenty of encouragement.
He said: ‘I don’t think I have come across a deck in the UK yet that is not my sort of deck.
‘There always seems to be something in it.
‘Even when the guys say it’s flat, I think “you haven’t seen anything”.
‘I always find something in it for me but sometimes you have to be patient.’
But Abbott remains focused on securing another victory that would further boost Hampshire’s promotion bid.
He said: ‘We are in a commanding position.
‘If we bat on and get 450-500 ahead, four sessions should be enough.
‘If we were told we would be batting by lunch, we would have laughed.
‘But I was happy with the way I bowled and credit to the other guys as well.’
n Ageas Bowl groundsman Nigel Gray was left red-faced after a bizarre motoring accident yesterday.
Gray apparently left the handbrake off his car and then watched in horror as it trundled down the hill, through a fence and into the training facilities at the ground, eventually wedging itself between the stairs.
It was later recovered but it will be no surprise if Gray arrives at work on one of his trusty lawnmowers for the next few days.