Inspectors’ wish is granted as must-win clash puts spectators to sleep

Imran Tahir consoles Jacques Rudloph. Picture: Neil Marshall
Imran Tahir consoles Jacques Rudloph. Picture: Neil Marshall
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If body language is anything to go by, then Hampshire will be relegated from County Championship division one this year.

Perhaps it’s easy to jump to the wrong conclusion in the moments after a Sean Ervine short-pitched delivery clears the batsman’s head by about six feet and then soars out of the reach of wicketkeeper Michael Bates for five extras to the Yorkshire total.

Cue sagging shoulders and shakes of the head all round.

As proud professional sportsmen, Hampshire will not have given up the ghost of beating the drop this season and will still continue to battle for the cause.

But for that brief moment, it looked like they might just have accepted their fate and written off their hopes of performing a miraculous escape from relegation.

The scoreboard won’t have lifted their spirits either after the first day of a must-win home clash with fellow strugglers Yorkshire.

At 318 for three at stumps last night, a home victory already looks an outside bet.

Quite what is missing from their Championship form in comparison to their impressive Friends Life t20 performances remains the kind of mystery that would leave Sherlock Holmes flummoxed.

But the visitors made batting look remarkably easy as they piled on the runs.

Although Chris Wood struck early in the day to remove Joe Sayers and provide early encouragement, Jacques Rudolph (99) and Andrew Gale (54) then put on 129 for the second wicket before Gale miscued an Imran Tahir delivery to James Vince.

Tahir was the man to strike again as Rudolph perished just one run short of his century – and the spinner offered an Andrew Flintoff-style arm round the shoulder to console the departing batsman.

But if there was any sympathy to be dished out, it should probably have been directed at the weary Hampshire bowling attack.

While the last Championship pitch offered a riveting contest in the frantic draw with Nottinghamshire, it came with the almost laughable punishment of an eight-point deduction from the ECB pitch panel for offering excessive turn as the spinners profited.

Presumably those who make the decisions – and Tony Pigott was once again among the crowd at the Rose Bowl yesterday – prefer the kind of deck that allows sides to bat themselves comfortably towards 500 – and thus send spectators into a state of semi-consciousness.

If that’s the case, they appear to have got their wish.