Storm Francis has the final say as Hampshire’s Bob Willis Trophy tie with Essex peters out into a soggy draw

A familiar sight at Arundel over the last few days. Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images.A familiar sight at Arundel over the last few days. Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images.
A familiar sight at Arundel over the last few days. Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images.
Defending county champions Essex lost their 100 per cent record in the Bob Willis Trophy as they were forced to watch their clash with Hampshire slide into a rainy draw.

Rain fell constantly overnight at Arundel to add further squelch to the already soggy outfield before an early afternoon downpour ending any hope of play – with the shared points confirmed after a 2pm inspection.

A positive result, either way, had been made nigh impossible due to a washed-out opening day before only 78 overs, dotted around heavy showers, were bowled across the second and third days.

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Both sides will take nine points, eight for the draw plus a bonus point, from the match.

Unbeaten Essex remain top of the South division with 70 points, with Hampshire, Middlesex and Kent still mathematically able to catch them.

The group winners will still need to score more points than the top teams in the North and Central groups to qualify for the five-day final in October.

At present, Somerset (76) and Derbyshire (71) – leaders of the Central and North groups respectively - have more points than Essex.

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Essex’s last fixture of the group stage is at home to Middlesex, while Hampshire travel to Kent – both contests starting on Sunday, September 6.

Hampshire will need a convincing victory, and hope Essex and Middlesex draw

In the meantime, Hampshire and holders Essex will turn their immediate attention to the T20 Blast – which starts on Thursday.

Essex, having been asked to bat, reached 249 for three in the only innings at Arundel – just one run away from a second bonus point.

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Sir Alastair Cook recorded only his 42nd not out in 547 first class innings.

The England great totted up 129 – his 66th red ball century which included the 24,000th run of his illustrious career.

Dan Lawrence remained not out on 37, after Paul Walter had struck 43 in his new spot at the top of the batting order.

Hampshire found wicket-taking difficult on a slow lifeless wicket, with Ian Holland, Ryan Stevenson and Mason Crane each taking one scalp each.

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With a victory and a draw, they will be mostly satisfied with the work done at their scenic temporary home 40 miles down the coast in west Sussex.

Hampshire’s five group stage matches in the Blast will be held behind closed doors at The Ageas Bowl, once England’s three-match T20 series against Pakistan finishes on September 8.