Hampshire set imposing target
Hampshire face an uphill battle to stave off defeat against Essex on the final day after they were challenged to make the highest fourth-innings score in an LV= County Championship match at the Ageas Bowl.
Set a daunting 427 to win, Hampshire were struggling at 73 for three at stumps on day three. They require a further 354 runs to win, with seven wickets intact.
Essex, 217 for two at start of play, were eventually dismissed for 475, with Owais Shah taking his unbeaten 124 overnight on to 161.
They made little headway during a protracted morning session, scoring only 60 runs in 30 overs, with the obdurate Tom Craddock batting for almost two hours in his nightwatchman role for 16.
Craddock and Shah fell either side of lunch, the former Middlesex and England batsman hitting a six and 28 fours in compiling his second championship hundred in three matches.
The Ageas Bowl surface, which offered plenty of bounce and movement for the bowlers on the opening two days, had baked into a benign batsman-friendly state and Hampshire's bowlers toiled for their few rewards.
Mark Pettini, on 17, provided left-arm spinner Liam Dawson with his first victim in a lengthy 34.4-over stint but the arrival of Ryan ten Doeschate at the crease hastened a generally pedestrian scoring rate.
The Dutchman put purpose into the Essex innings, hitting two sixes and 10 fours in a bright and breezy 69 from 61 balls.
He added 89 with James Foster, who made 61, before the wicketkeeper shared 45 with Adam Wheater to help take the Essex lead beyond 400.
David Balcombe, with 5-103, eventually cut through the Essex lower-order to bag his third five-wicket haul of the season but his first since mid-April against Glamorgan.
Hampshire's already slim prospects of chasing down such a sizeable total were dealt a triple blow in the final 20 overs of play - all at the hands of Maurice Chambers.
In the seventh over, Michael Carberry, without a Championship century since making 111 against Warwickshire last September, pulled a short-pitched delivery from Reece Topley straight to Chambers at deep backward-square.
Ten balls later, the Jamaican-born paceman had Bilal Shafayat caught behind by Foster to leave Hampshire 23 for two.
And, with his next delivery, Chambers had former Australia Test left-hander Simon Katich caught at slip by Shah to complete figures of 2-25.
But Jimmy Adams and Dawson, with 36 and 25 not out, added an unbroken 50 to see Hampshire through to stumps.