Kyle Abbott bags second career hat-trick to propel title-chasing Hampshire to a stunning LV= County Championship victory over Gloucestershire at Cheltenham

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Kyle Abbott took a sensational hat-trick to propel title-chasing Hampshire to a six-wicket win over Gloucestershire in a memorable LV=County Championship match at the Cheltenham Festival.

Bottom-of-the-table Gloucestershire were 216-5 in their second innings and making a decent fist of frustrating Hampshire ambition when the veteran South African paceman made his decisive intervention either side of the lunch interval.

Rewarded for bowling straight, he ended Miles Hammond's marathon stint, dismissing the left hander for a career-best 169, and then returned after the break to account for Zafar Gohar and Tom Price with consecutive deliveries.

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Abbott claimed the last five wickets in 12 balls to finish with figures of 6-76, while Keith Barker took 4-65 as Gloucestershire were bowled out for 337 in their second innings.

Hat-trick hero Kyle Abbott  celebrates with teammates after taking one of his six second innings wickets at Cheltenham. Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty ImagesHat-trick hero Kyle Abbott  celebrates with teammates after taking one of his six second innings wickets at Cheltenham. Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images
Hat-trick hero Kyle Abbott celebrates with teammates after taking one of his six second innings wickets at Cheltenham. Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images

Pursuing a modest 82 to win, Hampshire reached their target in 9.3 overs for the loss of four wickets. Skipper James Vince scored a quickfire 24 from 16 balls to render the outcome a foregone conclusion, Liam Dawson hit the winning runs and Ryan Higgins taking 3-41 by way of consolation.

Under pressure to prevail after title rivals Surrey and Lancashire had both won, Hampshire took 23 points to maintain their grip on second place in the First Division table, while Gloucestershire (two points) are still without a win in 10 Championship matches this summer.

Given the possibility of rain arriving by mid-afternoon, Hampshire were understandably eager to finish the job in quick time, and there was a real purpose to their work after Gloucestershire resumed their second innings on 191-4, still 65 runs behind.

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Hampshire achieved the early breakthrough they craved, Graeme van Buuren playing a little too far away from his body in fending at a rising delivery from Barker and Vince taking a head-high catch at first slip.

Gloucestershire's captain had batted for 107 minutes, faced 66 balls and helped add 90 for the fifth wicket in company with centurion Hammond, and his departure, 14 overs before the new ball was due, raised the prospect of a rapid conclusion.

Hammond, of course, was reading from an altogether different script, and when he pulled Barker to deep square leg for a single to move to 124, he eclipsed his previous highest first-class score made against Middlesex at Bristol in September 2018.

The advent of Dawson's slow left arm from the Chapel End brought with it further opportunities for the visitors, who nevertheless appeared intent upon allowing chances of a quick victory to literally slip through their fingers.

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Hammond was fortunate to be afforded three lives on 124, 125 and 127, Brown and Vince spilling outside edges behind the wicket and at slip respectively, and Organ then making a hash of things at backward point when Hammond top-edged a reverse sweep. Three drops in as many overs and, on each occasion, the frustrated Dawson was the aggrieved party, his evident discontent serving to sow the first seeds of doubt.

Having avoided the ignominy of an innings defeat, Gloucestershire were two runs to the good when the new ball was taken at the first available opportunity. Hammond greeted Barker's return with a contemptuous flick of the wrists that yielded a boundary through backward point, in the process bringing up his maiden 150 via 235 balls, with 22 fours and three sixes. A much-reduced final day audience were generous in their applause for the home-town boy.

Eager to atone for the irresponsible nature of his first-innings dismissal, Higgins proved a reliable partner for Gloucestershire's top scorer. Eschewing excessive risk in favour of a more conservative approach, Higgins carved out a workmanlike 50 from 79 balls, with seven fours, his efforts adding to Hampshire's growing sense of frustration.

But the visitors continued to plug away and the sixth wicket partnership was worth 115 when Hampshire were at last afforded relief in the final over before lunch, Hammond edging a length ball from Abbot to Vince at slip.

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His magnificent defiance spanned five and three-quarter hours and encompassed 278 balls in an innings liberally studded with 27 fours and 3 sixes.

As well as Hammond played, his demise meant lunch was taken with Gloucestershire on 316-6, a lead of 60 which was precarious indeed given the continued absence of those rain showers forecast to arrive from the South West.

By the time Abbott had completed the 95th over, Gloucestershire's position had been rendered hopeless. Zafar was caught at the wicket off the first delivery after lunch, while Price was adjudged lbw to a full delivery next ball.

This was the South African's second first-class hat-trick, following on from one achieved against Worcestershire in 2018.

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Gloucestershire effectively ran up the white flag when Higgins, having made 63 from 94 balls and struck nine fours, hoisted a short-pitched delivery from Abbott high to Fuller on the deep square leg boundary. Last man Josh Shaw also succumbed to Abbott, at which point the home side had lost five wickets for the addition of 21 runs in four overs.