HAMPSHIRE hopes of a second successive Specsavers County Championship division one win already look slim after one day of their clash with Middlesex.
And the man to blame – David Malan – who underlined his liking for the Hants bowlers as a high-class 147 put the hosts in early command at Northwood.
Malan was joined by his captain Adam Voges in a 279-run third-wicket stand which propelled Middlesex to 342 for three, after they had initially slumped to 14 for two, with Tino Best and James Tomlinson striking.
Australian Test batsman Voges also played superbly for his unbeaten 128, as he and John Simpson, who is unbeaten on 28, saw off the second new ball to complete a fine day for Middlesex.
Malan was first to three figures, driving former West Indies fast bowler Best through extra cover for his 13th four in the second over after tea.
His 16th first-class century followed scores of 121 and 24 not out against Hampshire in the championship game at the Ageas Bowl earlier this month –plus a sparkling 93 on Friday in the T20 Blast encounter between the two sides at Uxbridge.
An entertaining day began with Hampshire on top and forcing Malan and Voges to battle hard for supremacy on a testing pitch in early overcast and chilly conditions.
The predominantly sunny afternoon session brought 130 runs as the third-wicket pair grew in authority in warmer temperatures and then, after tea, came some thrilling cricket as Malan hit Mason Crane’s leg spin straight for six before upper-cutting Best in extraordinary fashion for another six to wide third man.
The fiery Best responded with a ferocious bouncer that Malan, by now on 122 and looking in complete command, could only glove down from in front of his face for a streaky single and with both feet off the ground.
Voges soon after completed his hundred – the 36-year-old’s 32nd career ton – when he took three successive fours off Crane to sprint from 91 to 103.
In truth, they were three poor balls – two long hops either side of a low full toss which disappeared to the ropes at mid-wicket, long on and cover point respectively.
Malan was finally dismissed when he drove at Liam Dawson’s left-arm spin and edged to slip, where Sean Ervine took a sharp and instinctive catch chest-high.
He had batted for almost five hours, facing 226 balls and hitting two sixes and 17 fours.
After opting to bat first at the attractive Merchant Taylors’ School ground when he won a toss, Voges saw openers Nick Gubbins and Sam Robson both quickly fall to catches in the slip cordon.
Left-hander Gubbins edged Tomlinson low to third slip on four in the fourth over and then Robson, pushing half-forward, was held at second slip off a delighted Best, who pumped his fists Curtly Ambrose-style in a celebration which lit up the morning gloom.
The prolific Robson’s dismissal, for a 27-ball two, would have had nerves jangling in the Middlesex dressing room.
But Malan and Voges fought hard to rally their side and, immediately after lunch, bravely negotiated a hostile spell by Best to complete excellent fifties before pushing on as the ball grew softer.