James Vince shows his class – but it’s Sam Northeast who excels on day one for Hampshire against Essex
James Vince gave onlooking England national selector Ed Smith a nudge with a classy 40 on day one of Hampshire’s County Championship opener against Essex.
But the Ageas Bowl captain’s performance was overshadowed by team-mate Sam Northeast.
Vince promoted himself to the top of the batting order in the hope of pushing for an Ashes spot as an opener.
He put in a typically elegant display, with the first ball he faced driven charmingly through the covers, after Essex had elected to bowl without a toss.
But while Vince failed to reach a half-century, fellow batsmen Rilee Rossouw and debutant Aiden Markham both reached the milestone, while Northeast trumped the lot.
Northeast, who endured a mixed 2018 after moving from Kent, scored a confident 94 not out to take Hampshire to the close on 303 for four – having bossed proceedings on the south coast.
After a 20-minute delay to the curtain raiser due to bad light, Hampshire found batting simple from the outset.
Vince, having stroked his first delivery beautifully, replicated his trademark cover drive two balls later, before firmly cutting Jamie Porter for a third boundary of the over after a further two deliveries.
He has previously played 13 Tests but has found an unwanted infamy for his attractive shot-making but frustrating wickets.
Vince attempted to disprove the reputation and looked at his very best on a slow, un-April-like, pitch.
Opening-partner Joe Weatherley swallowed up 40 balls with a textbook defensive performance, but got over confident on 13 when he drove Matt Quinn to Tom Westley at third slip.
Vince continued along with overseas Markram and appeared to be on course to reach lunch unbeaten – but ended the session being struck on the pads by Ravi Bopara as he fell across his stumps.
Where Vince fell, Markram excelled, with the South Africa player driving equally well.
The Test batsman, who played in three Specsavers County Championship matches for Durham last season, looked at ease from the off on a slow Ageas Bowl wicket.
Markram only arrived in the UK earlier this week as he was brought in as a late replacement for Sri Lankan Dimuth Karunaratne.
He made hay during a 75-run stand with Northeast, as the 24-year-old reached his bow with 50 from 77 balls.
Markram departed when he edged behind to Dan Lawrence – who stood in as Essex’s wicket-keeper after Adam Wheater damaged a finger during the afternoon session.
But the fun really started when Rossouw arrived at the crease.
The Kolpak signing smashed a quartet of huge sixes and crashed 10 fours in a bludgeoning and eye-catching innings.
Rossouw juxtaposed Northeast who was carefully going about his own game – taking on the bad balls but watchfully blocking out anything that could cause any danger.
While Rossouw scored his half century in white-ball style 47 balls, Northeast in 95 balls.
Rossouw departed with an out of control pull shot, caught at deep square leg by Simon Harmer.
Northeast continued his vigil to the end of the day and reached 94 before bad light ended proceedings at 5.30pm.
- Alex Smith