Warwickshire bear down on title
Warwickshire head into the final day of the LV= County Championship season as firm favourites to be crowned champions after a fine all-round bowling display enabled them to enforce the follow-on against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl.
The Division One leaders made regular inroads throughout a tense third day to dismiss their hosts for 324 and secure a first-innings lead of 169, despite Liam Dawson carrying his bat for a classy unbeaten 152.
Hampshire’s failure to reach 400 and maximum batting points confirmed their relegation and they subsequently slipped to 43 for three at stumps, Chris Metters following up his three first-innings scalps with two wickets in three balls.
After ending Dawson’s opening stand with Jimmy Adams on 93, Warwickshire were able to consistently take wickets just when it appeared their title push was losing momentum.
Tail-end resistance from Chris Wood and Danny Briggs, allied with the admirable contribution of Dawson, threatened to take Hampshire beyond their follow-on target, but their efforts ultimately proved in vain.
Should Warwickshire not complete their 10th victory of the campaign tomorrow, nearest rivals Lancashire can overhaul them by beating Somerset, who ended day three just five ahead for the loss of five second-innings wickets, at Taunton.
Hampshire skipper Jimmy Adams struggled to find his feet this morning and survived several scares before becoming the first of three victims for Chris Wright.
Looking to force the seamer off the back foot, Adams played on to one that shaped back in and another wicket swiftly followed as Michael Carberry fell cheaply in Metters’ first over.
Carberry was guilty of poor footwork as he played back to a full delivery from the left-arm spinner and nicked to first slip, where Rikki Clarke took a good low catch.
The visitors almost removed the previously untroubled Dawson, who profited from a compact technique and a tendency to play with a straight bat, for 70 soon after, only for Will Porterfield to spill a tricky rising chance in the gully.
Boyd Rankin was the unfortunate bowler, but he then accounted for Neil McKenzie in the final over before lunch with a full ball that swung in and trapped the batsman plumb in front.
Hampshire were 136 for three at that stage, yet they made swift progress after the interval as James Vince dashed to 41 with a series of glorious strokes, predominantly through the off side.
Clarke came in for the bulk of the punishment as the talented 20-year-old played with greater freedom than any previous batsman had managed.
However, after being struck on the shoulder by Clarke, Vince pulled the all-rounder’s next delivery straight into the hands of Chris Woakes at deep backward square.
Dawson, who had been content to play a supporting role as his partner prospered, subsequently moved to three figures, from 201 deliveries, and continued to look in excellent touch.
Yet, with tea approaching, Warwickshire were handed a major boost as Metters struck twice in the space of four balls. Sean Ervine holed out to Woakes at deep midwicket before Michael Bates, playing across the line, fell lbw for a duck.
The new ball, taken two overs later, provided the visitors with further joy as Dimitri Mascarenhas parried a lifting delivery from Rankin to second slip.
Wood hung around with Dawson for over half an hour in the evening session, but his innings was ended by Wright, whose accurate bouncer was steered to Metters in the gully. That left Hampshire on 287 for eight, still 57 short of avoiding the follow-on.
Briggs provided Warwickshire with serious cause for concern, striking three boundaries, including a pulled six off Clarke, in an over that yielded 19 runs and saw Dawson move to 150.
With quick runs needed to maintain their slim hopes of survival, Hampshire had no option but to continue attacking and Briggs perished for 25 when he failed to make it back for a second run at the non-strikers’ end, Porterfield’s throw from deep midwicket doing the damage.
Last man James Tomlinson was duly sent back for a third-ball duck as he failed to deal with a short ball from Wright and provided Clarke, lunging forward at second slip, with another catch.
Jubilant celebrations followed, but Warwickshire were aware they had plenty of work still to do.
A key breakthrough arrived in the ninth over of Hampshire’s second innings as Dawson was finally ousted. Having batted for almost the entire day, the 21-year-old gloved a violent bouncer from Rankin to gully, where Porterfield swooped to take the catch.
When Adams nudged Metters around the corner to Porterfield at leg slip, the visitors were in dreamland and Tomlinson, sent in as a nightwatchman, duly completed a pair by chipping tamely to skipper Jim Troughton at mid-off.
Carberry and McKenzie made it through to stumps and will resume tomorrow on 12 and two respectively.