Shah ton holds up Hampshire
Essex's former England batsman Owais Shah hit an unbeaten century to limit Hampshire's promotion charge on the second day of a LV= County Championship match at the Ageas Bowl.
Shah was 124 not out at the close as Essex reached 217 for two, a lead of 168 on a green pitch which eased after 14 wickets had been lost on a torrid first day.
Shah has been the only batsman to master the pitch, which offered plenty of help to the seam bowlers of both sides until the afternoon session.
Hampshire began the day on 165 for four, only 15 behind Essex's first-innings 180 made after home captain Jimmy Adams had won the toss.
The fourth-placed hosts were soon in trouble, with pace bowler Reece Topley dismissing overnight pair James Vince and Bilal Shafayat in his first two overs.
At 185 for eight, Hampshire were only five runs in front but soon Sean Ervine and James Tomlinson came together for an important stand of 43 for the ninth wicket.
Ervine struck six fours in a typically belligerent 43 before Hampshire were all out for 229 in the 65th over. Topley finished with 3-59 and Maurice Chambers 3-61.
Essex were soon in trouble in their second innings. Hampshire fast bowler David Balcombe, who took four wickets in the first innings after extracting pace and bounce from the pitch, sent back Tom Westley to a smart slip catch by Liam Dawson.
That brought Shah to the crease to join opener Jaik Middleburgh and Hampshire rapidly lost their control as the second-wicket pair got on top of the bowling.
Shah, six times capped by England in Tests, proved he is still a powerful force at county level with his 44th first-class century.
The pair put on 193 in 59 overs before Adams turned to the occasional left-arm spin of Simon Katich which broke the stand.
Middleburgh, who had stroked 10 fours in his 73 in a supporting role to Shah, edged Katich to Dawson at slip to make Essex 212 for two not long before the close.
At stumps, with nightwatchman Tom Craddock for company, Shah had struck 20 fours and a six off Dawson from 180 balls and the outcome of the match was back in the balance.