Michael Carberry and Rilee Rossouw agonisingly missed out on centuries but Hampshire remained in the control against Middlesex at the Ageas Bowl. The pair produced magical and brave innings before a rare moment of ill-judgement saw them off for 98 and 99 respectively.
Despite the near misses the hosts stayed on top thanks to Kyle Abbott’s evening mini-blitz on the visitor’s top-order. Middlesex ending the day 29 runs ahead.
The day began with Carberry falling two runs short of a much merited and universally wanted century after waiting since May last year to taste three figures in the Specsavers County Championship due to missing the second half of last season through cancer treatment.
He watchfully negotiated the early overs, desperate not to gift his wicket away after starting the day on 84. Two balls after moving to 98 with a thick edge through the slip cordon he opened his shoulders for the first time since the previous evening but edged behind, leaving the Ageas Bowl in stunned silence.
Abbott, elevated to nightwatchman on day two, had been in flowing mood on the drive throughout the morning and reached his maiden Championship fifty off 77 balls. He had put on 80 with Carberry before the opener and Lewis McManus fell soon after each other, the wicket-keeper gloving to third slip.
Carberry’s dismissal had brought Rossouw to the crease after being forced to move down the order due to a chipped finger in his left hand. The South African was bashed twice on the same hand during his counter-attacking stand with Berg, the pair adding 86 for the eighth wicket. The duo both crashed massive sixes in a speedy stand before Berg was caught and bowled by Dawid Malan, with Brad Wheal being caught behind next ball.
Rossouw was inexplicably dropped by Malan in the covers, the ball barely picking up speed off the bat to loop through the fielder’s hands. Fidel Edwards, who injured his hamstring while bowling, completed a walking wounded partnership for the last wicket.
Rossouw often needed to lift his bottom hand off the bat but after taking on a never-there two he was run out by Sam Robson. He became the second agonising near miss of the day.
With Hampshire leading by just 82 after the first innings, it looked like a draw was almost guaranteed on the final day but Abbott had other ideas. The former Test star ripped through Robson with a beauty which seemed to grow and straighten on the opener. He then accounted for Nick Gubbins with a pearler, his 50th Championship wicket, angling slightly across the left hander to kiss the edge of the bat and clip into Jimmy Adams’ hands at second slip. Abbott almost had a third when Sean Ervine dropped a tough chance at first slip with Stevie Eskinazi on six.
Wheal used his pace to take the third scalp as Malan left a hooping in-swinger. Eskinazi and Adam Voges made a recovery to take Middlesex back into the black but the former's late in the day swipe behind for 45 off Abbott left Hampshire still hoping for victory.