Half centuries from Jimmy Adams, Will Smith, James Vince and Sean Ervine ensured Hampshire had the perfect opening day of their survival clash with Durham.
The quartet all scored runs quickly, without converting to tons, to pick up important bonus points, with Hampshire knowing a win will guarantee them another year in Division One, while a draw could still be enough.
Smith and Vince were the pick of the batsmen, but both departed in the nervous nineties after craftsman-like innings. Under heavy clouds, which cloaked the view of the Meon Valley to the north of the ground, Paul Collingwood elected not to toss – looking up rather than down at a dry track, which looks destined to turn later in the match.
And that decision immediately looked questionable as Jimmy Adams and Smith, with their left-hand, right-hand combination, batted imperiously as the swing and seam failed materialised. Former Durham man Smith, in particular, abandoned his usual defensive bubble to venture into stroke play to tick the runs along.
It was Adams who reach fifty first, as he enjoyed more of the strike, from 95-balls - the eighth time he has reach the milestone in the Championship.
But he kept up his record of being the highest run scorer in Division One without reaching three figures, bettered only by Essex’s Ravi Bopara, when he chopped Scott Borthwick, on his final Durham appearance, with the score on Nelson. There was still time in the morning for Smith, who has spent time this season standing in as captain, to move through to fifty in 80-balls.
That brought lunch, and immediately after Tom Alsop was leg before to off-spinner Ryan Pringle, which brought Vince to the crease, desperate to end his unhappy summer on a high. Vince, who was dropped by the selectors for the upcoming Test tour of Bangladesh, went through his arsenal of shots, all played with the clean hitting, textbook technique and aesthetically attractive stroke play regular viewers of Vince have grown accustomed to.
He passed 6,000 Championship runs, and 7,000 first-class runs during a quick-fire knock which blew the cobwebs of a frustrating 2016 away. Smith, who had rattled away at a consistent strike rate of 60, was caught at point while loosely driving outside off stump, for 90, after a stand of 102 with Vince.
Vince, after adding 57 with Sean Ervine, look destined for a first century since April, but foolishly took on Ben Stokes’ rocket arm when on 92. Ervine then reached his half century, a fifth fifty in six innings since returning from a calf strain, in a mature 80-balls, but the very next ball edged a quicker Pringle delivery to Collingwood at first slip.
McLaren came and went, on the wrong end of some more Pringle turn to fall leg before, but the runs continued to flow and Hampshire soon moved to a fourth bonus point – putting themselves closer to a position where they could draw and still stay up. They ended the day on 370 for six, with Liam Dawson set to become No.5 on the 50 list, unbeaten on 47 – to complete a brilliant batting day.
Durham skipper Collingwood said: “It was a disappointing day, the amount it is turning on day one you would expect to take more wickets. We did not get the ball in the right areas consistently enough to build pressure over a long period of time and you get hurt because of that.
“Whether we were batting first tonight or batting last on it, it is going to be difficult against a couple of Hampshire spinners. It is a pretty firm wicket. The foot holes haven’t got too much bigger and as long as they don’t put anymore sand on, it shouldn’t disintegrate anymore."