Stand-in skiper Northeast stars as Hampshire race into first innings lead against Surrey at Arundel

Sam Northeast on his way to 81 against Surrey at Arundel. Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images.Sam Northeast on his way to 81 against Surrey at Arundel. Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images.
Sam Northeast on his way to 81 against Surrey at Arundel. Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images.
Sam Northeast reached his 77th first-class half-century with a trademark no-fuss innings as Hampshire dashed past Surrey’s first innings score at Arundel.

The stand-in captain looked serene for his second Bob Willis Trophy half-century - following his 51 against Middlesex at Radlett - as he reached 81, following a 121-run stand with third-wicket partner Tom Alsop (52 not out).

Surrey had earlier been bowled out for 172 and ended the day 26 in arrears as Hampshire reached 198 for three.

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Following two days where a combined 40 overs were bowled due to rain, both sides were further frustrated by a wet outfield, particularly the run-up areas, which prevented any play in the morning session.

Blue skies, punctuated by the odd non-threatening cloud, created a postcard-ready vista at the ever-pleasant Arundel Castle Ground – where Hampshire are playing their home red ball matches this season due to England’s use of the Ageas Bowl – when the action finally arrived.

Hampshire needed two wickets, but were forced to wait as Morne Morkel wielded his bat for some vital tailender runs.

The South African, who flew in from Australia last week, battered seven boundaries in his tubthumping 33 from 25 balls.

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Leg spinner Mason Crane put an end to his fun, though when he pinned him lbw, before rounding off the innings by having Amar Virdi stumped by a lightning-quick Lewis McManus.

Crane celebrated figures of two for eight, while Ian Holland returned career-best figures of 6-60 despite going wicketless on day three.

The early stages of Hampshire’s reply were the antithesis of Surrey’s approach – with the hosts hoping to only bat once in the match and force an innings victory.

Felix Organ, Joe Weatherley and Alsop took a cautious approach, where Surrey had flailed the bat much sooner – albeit in much less swing to have to negate.

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Organ was lucky to survive a fiery opening over from former South Africa international Morkel.

He found bounce to take the 22-year-old’s outside edge, but Ryan Patel shelled the chance to his right at second slip.

Organ smoked two boundaries on the drive off Matt Dunn, but fell when he was bowled leaving a Gus Atkinson in-ducker.

In form Weatherley, who scored 98 and 64 not out in the victory over Middlesex last week, started slowly but took a particular shine to Pate, easing him for three boundaries.

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He looked on course to repeat his heroics at Radlett but fell lbw to Virdi on the cusp of tea.

When Northeast was left out of England’s 55-man training squad earlier this summer, he bemoaned a lack of opportunity to prove the selectors wrong.

Here, his classy array of backfoot drives, legside flicks and dabs down to third man were all on show and proved a man in form.

He needed 82 balls to reach a chanceless half-century, on a ground he scored a century on his only previous appearance – in a 2nd XI fixture for Kent against Sussex in 2012.

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While Northeast played shot-maker, Alsop sat like a sentinel at the other end.

The left-hander had only scored eight in the 50-run stand with Weatherley, and provided a similar backbone for Northeast.

Alsop has been given the opportunity to make the No.3 spot his own for the long-term this season, having seen McManus become first-choice wicketkeeper over the last 12 months.

He kicked on to reach a gritty 128 ball half-century, but only after Northeast was trapped leg before to one which kept low from Virdi, who had switched from the Park to the Castle End.

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