Harmer and Porter the dangermen as Hampshire bid to end Essex’s 100 per cent Bob Willis Trophy run
Sam Northeast’s side take on South group table-toppers Essex in their penultimate Trophy tie at Arundel.
Essex, the reigning County Champions, are the only one of the 18 counties to have won all three of their first class games so far.
But Hampshire are in form, having won their last two games against Middlesex and Surrey. Yet Northeast will know another victory is imperative if they are to have any chance of topping the group and booking themselves a Lord’s final appearance.
Both counties have collected nine bowling points and four batting points so far, and Hampshire easily know who present the biggest dangers to them.
Ex-South African Test spinner Simon Harmer is the leading wicket-taker in the Trophy with a stunning 28-wicket haul in three games at an average of just 13.5.
Seam bowler Jamie Porter is the joint second-highest, alongside Warwickshire’s Oliver Hannon-Dalby, with 18 at 17.11.
Harmer bagged 14-131 when Essex defeated Surrey in their second game - following up a first innings 6-67 with 8-64 in the second.
It was the third time he had taken 14 wickets in a game for Essex.
He then took eight more wickets in the victory over Sussex at Hove earlier this week, including a second innings 5-54 - his 20th first class haul for the county of five or more wickets.
Hampshire know exactly the havoc Harmer can wreak.
Last June, at Chelmsford, he bagged match figures of 12-61 as Hampshire were thrashed by an innings - despite Essex only scoring 214!
Harmer followed up a first innings 5-23 with 7-38 as the visitors were dismissed for 118 and 88 - recovering from 32-7 in their second innings.
Going back to September 2018, Essex have won 15 of their 20 first class fixtures - drawing four and only losing one.
Hampshire will take heart from the fact that sole loss was against them at The Ageas Bowl in the opening game of last season.
Back then, Northeast struck 169 and Rilee Rossouw (76) and Liam Dawson (64) provided support as Hampshire rattled up 525-8 en route to an innings victory.
Essex were slightly inconvenienced by ex-Hampshire wicket-keeper Adam Wheater suffering a thumb injury on the opening day, which meant he didn’t bat in either innings.
Since that match, Essex have won 12 first class games and drawn four.
Only three men who appeared for Hampshire in that game are likely to be available for this weekend’s encounter - Northeast, Joe Weathlerley and Tom Alsop.
Harmer and Porter have been integral to Essex’s two Championship wins in the last three years.
Since the start of the 2017 campaign, they have taken a stunning 439 first class wickets between them.
In 2017 they were the leading two wicket-takers in the tournament - Porter bagging 75 and Harmer 72.
Last year, Harmer was out in front with 83 wickets - 12 more than Hampshire’s Kyle Abbott - with Porter taking 48.
They were also Essex’s top wicket-takers in 2018 - Porter (58) taking one more wicket than Harmer.
The Arundel wicket was certainly conducive to spin when Hampshire defeated Surrey by an innings earlier this week.
Surrey’s Amar Virdi collected 6-101 while Hampshire’s Mason Crane returned match figures of 5-27 off 12.4 overs.
Hampshire have struggled with the bat so far, failing to reach 300 in any innings - though they did post 298 against Surrey and 296 against Middlesex.
Joe Weatherley is their leading runscorer with 219, followed by Northeast (163) and Alsop (152).
After compiling only 74 runs in his last 10 Championship innings of 2019 - including eight single-figure scores - Alsop had only managed 65 runs in his opening four Trophy innings this year prior to hitting 87 against Surrey.
Elsewhere, Harry Came (49 runs from five innings), Felix Organ (60 from five) and Ian Holland (71 from five) are in need of a confidence-boosting score.
Holland, no doubt to his surprise, is currently Hampshire’s leading wicket-taker with 13 victims at 16.00.
Compare that to last summer, when he only took five wickets in nine Championship games at 75.60!
But with Kyle Abbott, Fidel Edwards and Keith Barker all unavailable against Surrey, he took the new ball for the first time in his Hampshire career and recorded a career best 6-60.