Honours about even on Hampshire’s first day

James Tomlinson. Picture: Neil Marshall
James Tomlinson. Picture: Neil Marshall
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Hampshire showed enough on day one of the new County Championship season to suggest they have enough about them to compete in the top flight this term.

After last year’s promotion from division two as champions, they know that the primary task is to stay in the top flight this season, especially with promoted clubs frequently becoming whipping boys in recent times.

Any targets beyond that can always wait.

But after losing the toss and being invited to field by Sussex, Hampshire’s bowlers stuck to their mission to leave the game well-balanced.

Like so many days in the Championship season, it could have been much better and it might have been much worse.

With Sussex recovering from 22 for three to reach 300 for six at the close, they may argue that they shaded the day’s play, with their three bonus points compared to Hampshire’s two.

But there was not much in it and it is poised to be an absorbing battle over the remainder of the contest.

It was the home side who grabbed the early initiative with James Tomlinson (two for 63) nabbing the first victim of the new season, producing a fine delivery to remove Luke Wells without scoring.

Debutant Gareth Berg then enjoyed the perfect start to his Hampshire Championship career as he struck with his first delivery, claiming the wicket of Chris Nash (11) before finding the edge of Michael Yardy’s bat in his second over.

Ed Joyce (42) and Craig Cachopa (41) dug in at a tricky time to avoid any further losses before lunch but Danny Briggs and Chris Wood picked up their first wickets of the campaign.

At 128 for five, Hampshire were well in command and another breakthrough at that stage would have added real impetus.

But Luke Wright (96) and wicketkeeper Ben Brown (85 not out) then came to the rescue for their side to put the brakes on Hampshire’s charge.

After Wright survived an early lbw scare, the pair looked well set for much of the afternoon in a 146-run partnership.

But after a fine knock, the former England man fell just four runs short of a century when Tomlinson picked up his second scalp thanks to Liam Dawson’s smart catch.

Brown remained unbeaten alongside Ajmal Shahzad (12 not out) at the close with both sides looking for the early initiative on day two.

While Hampshire may not have dominated, a few questions over the lack of depth in their bowling attack may have been answered.

With Jackson Bird and Andre Adams still to add into the mix when they are fully fit, it bodes well for a promising campaign.