Balcombe’s blitz leaves Essex struggling

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England's Mason Crane will make his England Test debut when the fifth Ashes Test begins at Sydney Cricket Ground tonight

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David Balcombe passed 50 County Championship wickets in a season for the first time in his career but insisted: My work is not over yet.

The rejuvenated seam bowler turned in another fine display with the ball as Hampshire bossed day one of their division two clash with Essex to maintain their promotion hopes.

Balcombe grabbed four wickets for 57 as Essex were bowled out for a lowly total of 180.

And Jimmy Adams’ side were just 15 runs behind with six wickets in hand at stumps as they look well set to build a commanding first innings lead.

Balcombe, 27, said: ‘I’ve got the monkey off my back!

‘At the start of the year, I was just trying to cement my place back at Hampshire having gone away on loan at Kent last season.

‘But I’m over the moon really. It’s the first time I’ve done it and it’s a nice personal milestone.

‘Now there are obviously two important games to go and if I’m taking wickets I am contributing.

‘It’s been a very good day. Obviously, it’s a massive game in the context of the division and we needed to get off to a good start to put them under pressure.

‘I think it was important to bowl first on that wicket with moisture around and a bit of green on the pitch.

‘We wanted to stick them in and put them under pressure to get early wickets and that was the key.’

On a green pitch which looks certain to produce a result, Hampshire made the most of the conditions.

Balcombe, David Griffiths (three for 40) and Sean Ervine (two for 19) prospered with only Mark Pettini (58) sticking around for any length of time as the visitors struggled.

In reply, Michael Carberry (42) played a positive knock at the top of the order, while the recalled Bilal Shafayat (42 not out) played the anchor role.

While the conditions are still helpful to the bowlers, Hampshire’s batters will be determined to build a big lead today.