Late wickets improve Worcestershire's day
Hampshire 119 for 4 (Adams 48, Leach 2-42) v Worcestershire
Bowlers Joe Leach and Jack Shantry took three late wickets to swing the first day in Worcestershire's favour at the Ageas Bowl. Hampshire looked in control on 88 for 1, having batted slowly on a rain affected day, but evening scalps dragged the game back into the visitors' grasp.
Shantry found the edge of Hampshire's most dangerous batsman this season, Michael Carberry, before Leach had Jimmy Adams and nightwatchman James Tomlinson leg before. The day will also stick in the mind of another Worcestershire fast bowler - Ed Barnard - who took his maiden first class wicket on his debut - the scalp of Hampshire opener Liam Dawson.
After a washed out morning, play finally got underway for the day at 3pm after Worcestershire had won the toss and decided to field on a green-tinged wicket with rarely-seen blue skies overhead. Before play got under way, Hampshire awarded former Durham batsman Will Smith a county cap, while Worcestershire gave first-class debuts to Barnard and England Under-19 colleague Joe Clarke - and a Championship debut to New Zealander Colin Munro.
The two counties were promoted together from Division Two last season but have found life in the top flight more difficult - with just one win between the sides - with both viewing this encounter as a must win.
In that spirit, Adams and Dawson carefully watched a dangerous opening spell by Leach and Charlie Morris go by without too many issues. Dawson beautifully timed a drive on the back foot to collect the first boundary of the match as both openers looked to play straight. The first stand went past 50 for the second game in a row but again Adams and Dawson couldn't reach three figures together - Dawson poking a Barnard delivery to Daryl Mitchell for 39.
Carberry joined his captain at the crease and survived a vocal shout for caught behind off Leach - the slip cordon and bowler staring at an unmoved umpire Michael Gough in disbelief. The former Test opener smeared a drive through the covers and pulled heftily in front of square - as the home side moved past 100 in the 44th over.
Carberry departed with 4.4 overs left of the day, as he ended his run of three straight half centuries in first-class matches, edging behind to Ben Cox off a lively Shantry delivery. And in the next over Adams departed two short of a fourth half century of the season and Tomlinson went in the same way to the final delivery of the day off of Leach as Hampshire toiled in the late evening sunshine.
"There were a few nerves jangling around when I got the nod but at the end of the day it's just another game," Worcestershire fast bowler Barnard said. "Jack, Joe and Charlie were giving me advice and they are three experienced bowlers and have done very well this season. To have them next to me was good for me. It was a great last 45 minutes but I think we deserved it after the way we bowled throughout the day.
"We were consistent and kept the pressure on them without letting them get away. Joe getting that last one at the end was an extra bonus. I think 250 will be a decent score but own aim will be to keep them under 200. We will want to get a big lead and not have to bat again but we have to see how it goes tomorrow and take the battle from there."
Hampshire first-team coach Dale Benkenstein admitted it was not the best finish to the day, saying: "It wasn't a good end to the day but we had a good couple of hours before that. We would have had a bowl as well and knowing that if you don't bowl well you only have 50 overs on the park. I thought our guys did well upfront to the new ball but we have the same problem every game where no batsman takes the game by the scruff of the neck.
"It's not easy when the wicket is giving a bit of assistance to the seamers but we are not helping ourselves. There were times when they weren't looking threatening but were still not giving us many runs. Credit to them, they made every run we did get hard to get. We should have been good enough to have got through today with maybe just one down, not four down."