Hampshire playing ‘catch-up’

Matt Coles. Picture: Neil Marshall
Matt Coles. Picture: Neil Marshall
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Matt Coles is relishing the scrap for County Championship promotion.

And the Hampshire all-rounder has backed his team to come out fighting on day three of their Ageas Bowl showdown with Kent.

The hosts, who are aiming to finish second in division two and seal a return to the top flight, trail by 380 runs with seven first-innings wickets remaining.

Coles acknowledges his side have so far been second best in the penultimate game of the season.

But the ex-Kent man reckons Hampshire’s batsmen, who resume on 127 for three, can launch a fightback today.

And a powerful riposte is crucial after third-placed Essex, their only rivals for the second promotion spot, ensured the race would go right to the wire when they sealed a comprehensive win over rock-bottom Leicestershire at Grace Road.

Coles, who took four for 84 in Kent’s first innings of 507, said: ‘We are playing catch-up but we have wickets in hand.

‘It is a good wicket to bat on and hopefully we can cash in today.

‘With Essex picking up the points, the promotion issue is going to go down to the last round of matches next week, so it is very exciting.’

Sam Billings (92) fell just short of becoming Kent’s third centurion of the match as the visitors frustrated Hampshire on day two.

Kent began the day at 312 for three after winning the toss.

And they were in no mood to surrender control.

Daniel Bell-Drummond (153) and Sam Northeast, who both hit centuries on the first day, took their partnership to 244 before Coles found a way through the latter’s defences.

Darren Stevens then edged Coles into the slips before Imran Tahir trapped Bell-Drummed leg before wicket with a googly.

But Billings found support in Calum Haggett and James Tredwell as Kent pressed on beyond 500.

Hampshire then made an awkward 127 for three from the remaining 42 overs.

The tired hosts soon lost makeshift opener Will Smith (11), who replaced the injured Michael Carberry.

And a mid-pitch mix-up saw the premature end of Jimmy Adams for just 26.

Liam Dawson had made 19 before he was caught, so now Hampshire will look to James Vince to steer them to safety.

Vince had reached 64 by stumps and will resume with England under-19 talent Tom Alsop.