McKenzie boosts Hampshire hopes of first-innings lead

Hampshire's Neil McKenzie struck an unbeaten half century
Hampshire's Neil McKenzie struck an unbeaten half century
England's Mason Crane will make his England Test debut when the fifth Ashes Test begins at Sydney Cricket Ground tonight

Root: Hampshire talent will embrace Ashes debut

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Neil McKenzie made light of bowler-friendly conditions to frustrate Gloucestershire on the second day of the County Championship division two clash at Bristol.

Facing a youthful seam attack in the cold and damp, the 36-year-old served up defiance aplenty to post an unbeaten half century as Hampshire reached 104 for two at the close.

The visitors had earlier bowled Gloucestershire out for 271 on a rain-interrupted day in which 63 overs were lost.

For McKenzie, attack was certainly the best form of defence as he helped himself to nine boundaries on his way to 52 not out from 84 balls.

The former South Africa Test batsman shared a stand of 79 for the second wicket with Bilal Shafayat (20).

And their partnership alone suggested the promotion-chasers can build a significant first-innings lead when play resumes today.

Recruited as a short-term replacement for the injured Michael Carberry, McKenzie was picked ahead of young England Lions batsman James Vince.

Given Hampshire’s priority is to achieve promotion back to the first division, the decision to include the experienced former international at the top of the order made perfect sense.

And he more than justified his selection.

The Johannesburg-born right-hander was unfazed by the low cloud and light drizzle that proved such a deterrent to spectators.

Prepared to bide his time and wait for the bad ball, he proved especially strong on the leg-side.

He quickly opted to take the game to Gloucestershire’s bowlers after Jimmy Adams had departed for nine – caught behind after fending at a rising delivery from Ian Saxelby.

Quite content to drop anchor and see off the new ball, Shafayat then served as a perfect foil, grafting his way to 20 from 51 balls.

Desperate to break the partnership, Gloucestershire skipper Alex Gidman threw the ball to Benny Howell.

And the former Hampshire all-rounder duly obliged – getting Shafayat caught by Rob Nicol at second slip in his third over.

Sensing an opportunity to apply pressure, Gloucestershire were then frustrated by the rain, which caused play to be abandoned for the rest of the day.

Earlier, the home side had resumed on 265 for eight.

But Gloucestershire’s tail offered precious little resistance when play finally began after a delay of 45 minutes prior to the morning session.

Richard Coughtrie added just three runs to his overnight score when he was pinned leg before wicket by left-armer James Tomlinson (two for 34) for 26.

Kabir Ali then had ex-Bashley bowler David Payne caught behind in the very next over to wrap up the innings, the former England seamer finishing with figures of three for 69.