Balcombe ignites hopes of Hampshire victory

David Balcombe. Picture: Neil Marshall
David Balcombe. Picture: Neil Marshall
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David Balcombe delivered a three-wicket burst to give Hampshire hope of defeating Gloucestershire in County Championship division two at Bristol.

Hampshire’s leading wicket-taker grabbed three for 19 in the final session to restrict the hosts to 102 for four – a lead of 97 runs going into the final day.

Gloucestershire had started day three well, though – restricting the visitors’ progress.

Responding to the home side’s 271, Hampshire looked set to establish a meaningful first-innings lead when advancing to 218 for four shortly before lunch.

But South African batsman Neil McKenzie was bowled by David Payne six runs short of a century to spark a collapse which saw six wickets fall for just 58 runs.

A Gloucestershire recovery had appeared unlikely when Australian batsman Simon Katich and veteran McKenzie piled on the runs after resuming on 104 for two.

But the hosts enjoyed a much-needed stroke of good fortune when Katich was run out by Ian Saxelby in pursuit of a single.

Nicol then had Liam Dawson (14) held in the covers, before the real breakthrough came – Payne uprooting McKenzie’s off stump in the final over of the morning session.

The 36-year-old had plundered 94 from 170 balls and taken advantage of some wayward bowling to accrue 14 fours and a six.

But Gloucestershire’s seam bowlers stuck to their task after lunch and made further inroads as the visitors slumped to 262 for seven and 276 all out.

Sean Ervine was the only ray of light for Hampshire as he cruised to 44, before steering a short ball to first slip.

The visitors had hit back before the close of play, though.

The home side suffered a collapse of their own after former Hampshire all-rounder Benny Howell and Rob Nicol had put on 51 for the first wicket.

Balcombe (three for 19) located Nicol’s outside edge for Katich to take a fine catch at second slip.

Then Howell wasted his earlier good work by driving loosely at a wide delivery from Ervine and being snaffled by McKenzie at first slip for 36.

Experienced campaigners Alex Gidman and Hamish Marshall then departed in quick succession – both falling to Balcombe – as Gloucestershire slipped to 72 for four.

Dan Housego and Ian Cockbain negotiated the final 12 overs without further mishap to see the hosts to 102 for four at the close.

Much will depend on the fifth-wicket pair when play resumes today.

But with the weather set fair, Hampshire will fancy their chances of forcing victory on the final day to keep up the pressure on division two leaders Derbyshire.