Bowlers required for another big effort

David Balcombe  Picture: Neil Marshall
David Balcombe Picture: Neil Marshall
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Hampshire’s bowlers will have to dig their side out of trouble for a second time in their Championship division two showdown with Gloucestershire if the promotion bid is to stay on track.

But with the visitors making good progress to 94 for one before heavy rain arrived that eventually saw play abandoned for the day, the game is evenly-poised at the midway point.

After the batting misfired on day one, David Balcombe (65 not out) and James Tomlinson (51) showed that there were no demons in the pitch as they continued their unexpected heroics.

With the last-wicket duo coming together with Hampshire in real trouble at 182 for nine, they guided the team to 251 for nine at stumps on the first day.

But they picked up where they left off on the second morning, adding another 46 runs and coming within a whisker of a remarkable third batting point in a brilliant rearguard action.

The partnership was eventually broken when Tomlinson went for another boundary having cracked successive fours to reach his maiden first class half-century.

Instead of taking the team past 300, he holed out to David Payne as Tom Smith finally wrapped up the Hampshire innings.

But it was not before the partnership had put on a valuable 115 runs.

Balcombe looked the more confident as he resumed his innings on 38 and reached his half-century in 78 balls.

He was eventually left high and dry on 65 not out after nine fours in 97 deliveries.

While Tomlinson took longer to reach the mark – he did it in with the 97th ball he faced – he was then out to the 98th after he’d hit seven fours.

With a score on the board that they probably weren’t expecting, the attention switched to the pair to repeat their efforts in their usual roles.

But Gloucestershire’s opening batsmen Will Tavare (44 not out) and Chris Dent (30) shared an opening stand worth 74 before Tomlinson made the breakthrough and trapped his man lbw.

If there were expectations of that paving the way for a cluster of wickets to fall, they were unfulfilled as Alex Gidman (11 not out) appeared in little trouble after joining Tavare.

Hampshire will probably admit they didn’t get the ball in the right areas often enough and struggled to create pressure.

And when rain arrived, it left the visitors 203 runs behind with nine wickets in hand.

With the game falling behind at the midway point, it will require another big effort from the bowlers on day three to give the home side a chance of sealing victory.

But at this rate, they might be happy to walk away with a draw.