DALE BENKENSTEIN insists Hampshire will continue to fight for a draw even though they are staring down the barrel of defeat at Yorkshire after a disastrous third day at Headingley.
Their limp first-innings batting effort was over within just 15 balls of yesterday’s morning session as they resumed on 223 for eight – adding just another four runs to the total as Lewis McManus (10) and James Tomlinson (two) departed quickly.
It meant the Ageas Bowl side trailed Yorkshire by 143 runs, and it allowed the home side to bat aggressively to extend their lead and set an improbable victory target as they raced to 304 for four declared.
With Hampshire set an unlikely 449 for victory, they knew their task was to bat out the remainder of the game in the hope of salvaging a draw.
But their second innings then got off to a catastrophic opening as they lost Sean Terry (one) and Michael Carberry (nought) with just one run on the board.
Things then went from bad to worse when James Vince (two) and Liam Dawson (16) also fell before the close of play to leave the visitors at 37 for four – 412 runs behind and sliding to an inevitable defeat.
Benkenstein, however, is pinning his hopes on Will Smith (18 not out) and nightwatchman James Tomlinson to give his side a shred of hope of a miraculous rearguard action.
The Hampshire first-team coach said: ‘We’ve got three sessions to bat and we’ve done it before but it is going to be uphill.
‘They can attack as much as they want. We’ve got to get in and fight. Smudge (Smith) is that type of character and Tommo has been known to hang around.
‘If they can get us into that first session and get us off to a decent start, our hopes will be quite high.
‘But if we have another start like that, we will be home early.’
Cheteshwar Pujara (133) struck a fine century for the hosts, but there was a at least one positive from the day, with West Indies pace bowler Fidel Edwards showing some of his trademark aggression.
He rattled England hopeful Adam Lyth (23) with one bouncer and then picked up his wicket before adding Andrew Gale (12) to his tally.
And Benkenstein was pleased with his improvement.
He said: ‘A real positive for me was the way Fidel bowled.
‘He has been looking for some rhythm and some form because he hasn’t played three-day or four-day cricket for three years, I think.
‘The spell he bowled to the openers was Test-match quality, so that is pretty good news from our point of view.’
Unfortunately, Hampshire’s hopes of rescuing this game look bleak and their attentions must have quietly already turned to Friday’s Natwest T20 Blast clash with Essex.