Hampshire on top in survival bid
Half-centuries from Jimmy Adams, Will Smith, James Vince and Sean Ervine set up the perfect first day of Hampshire's County Championship survival showdown with Durham.
The quartet all scored runs quickly, without converting to tons, to pick up important bonus points, with Hampshire (370 for six) knowing a win will guarantee them another year in division one, while a draw could still be enough.
Smith and Vince were the pick of the batsmen, but both departed in the nervous nineties after craftsman-like innings.
Under heavy clouds, which cloaked the view of the Meon Valley to the north of the ground, Paul Collingwood elected not to toss – looking up rather than down at a dry track, which looks destined to turn later in the match.
And that decision immediately looked a mistake as Adams and Smith, with their left hand-right hand combination, batted imperiously as the swing and seam never materialised.
Former Durham man Smith, in particular, abandoned his usual defensive bubble to venture into stroke play to tick the runs along.
It was Adams who reached fifty first, as he enjoyed more of the strike, from 95-balls – the eighth time he has reach the milestone in the Championship.
But he kept up his record of being one of the highest runscorers in division one without reaching three figures, bettered only by Essex’s Ravi Bopara, when he chopped Scott Borthwick, on his final Durham appearance, with the score on Nelson.
There was still time in the morning for Smith to move through fifty in 80-balls.
That brought lunch, and immediately after Tom Alsop was leg before to off-spinner Ryan Pringle, which signalled Vince to the crease, desperate to end his unhappy summer on a high.
Vince, who was dropped by England selectors for the upcoming tour of Bangladesh, went through his arsenal of shots, all played with the clean-hitting, textbook technique and aesthetically attractive strokeplay regular views of his have grown accustomed to.
He passed 6,000 Championship runs, and 7,000 first class runs during a quick-fire knock which blew cobwebs of a frustrating 2016 away – his fifty coming in 48 balls.
Smith, who had rattled away at a consistent strike-rate of 60, was caught at point while loosely driving outside off stump, for 90, after a stand of 102 with Vince.
Vince, after adding 57 with Ervine, looked destined for a first century since April, but foolishly took on Ben Stokes’ rocket arm when on 92.
Ervine then reached his half century, a fifth fifty in six innings since returnign from a calf strain, in a mature 80-balls, but the very next ball edged a quicker Pringle delivery to Collingwood at first slip.
McLaren came and went, on the wrong end of some more Pringle turn to fall leg before, but the runs continued to flow and Hampshire soon moved to a fourth bonus point – putting themselves closer to a position where they could draw and still stay up.
They ended the day on 370 for six, with Liam Dawson set to become No.5 on the 50 list, unbeaten on 47 – to complete a brilliant batting day.