By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
Rain played a part in all three fixtures in Division One with only Hampshire vs Worcestershire looking likely to see a positive result during tomorrows final days play.
We’ll start at the Ageas Bowl, as Hampshire’s lower order frustrated their new-promoted visitors to take the game away from the Pears. Daryl Mitchell’s men would have sniffed half a chance of grabbing an unlikely win after reducing the hosts to eight down going into day three. The hosts held a healthy lead but a couple of quick wickets could’ve opened the door, alas though Brad Wheal and Kyle Abbott stretched their 9th wicket stand to 72 to take the sting out of the Worcestershire tail. Abbott was the last man to fall after reaching his well-earned half-century hitting eight-fours in the process before Ed Barnard finally brought the innings to a close with Hampshire bagging a healthy 323-run advantage. With the weather closing the hosts went in search of quick wickets, and that man Abbott fresh from his heroics with the bat duly delivered. The South African claimed the early wicket of Brett D’Oliveira before a prolonged rain delay brought the Pears some much-needed respite. Five hours later, the players reemerged onto the outfield with a tricky looking hour ahead with Worcestershire surely having the message of don’t lose any more wickets firmly ringing in their ears. Unfortunately, that message didn’t get through to Tom Fell and Joe Clarke who both fell victim to Abbott for 8 and 15 respectively. Skipper Daryl Mitchell showed dogged determination though and will now hold the key to any lingering hopes of saving this match, I suspect a few of the Worcestershire camp will be performing a rain dance or two in the hotel room tonight, they require a further 265-runs to win against a very good Hampshire attack. You’d have to make the hosts comfortable favourites if the weather holds out.
Elsewhere, rain also played it’s part at Old Trafford as Nottinghamshire’s Tom Moores played a vital hand to give the visitors a narrow lead over Lancashire. Moores struck an important 38 to offer useful assistance to Riki Wessels (41) as the pair shared 82 for the seventh wicket. Wessels was the first to depart as Lancashire skipper Liam Livingston said ‘well if you boys can’t do it, I will’. The part-time spinner trapped the experienced Wessels leg before. Livingston wasn’t done there though, he promptly went on to remove the tail as well tempting Luke Wood into a poor shot to offer Dane Vilas a simple catch and dragging Jake Ball down the track to offer Alex Davies an easy stumping opportunity to bring the innings to a close. But thanks to Wessels and Moores gutsy heroics they walked back to the shed with a handy lead of 64 to their names. England hopefuls Keaton Jennings and Haseeb Hameed were tasked with getting Lancashire past that first-innings lead unscathed. Hameed played his typical patient way to reach 19 off 50-balls in tricky conditions before edging through to Tom Moores off the bowling of Harry Gurney. The same duo combined again soon after to remove Alex Davies for a duck. Jennings and Livingstone ensured no more would fall as the rain came down and brought an end to proceedings with no more play possible after tea. The hosts still trail, albeit by the small margin of six, the draw has to be favourite after losing four sessions to the weather but a couple of early wickets for the Outlaws and you just never know.
You have to wonder if there is any point in Essex wasting money on the hotel room tonight. Two full days of dry weather and yet still the players of Yorkshire and Essex are waiting for their first taste of action this season. The official line coming out of Yorkshire is that unprecedented levels of rain leading up to the season has meant the outfield in areas has suffered too much to risk the safety of the players. Frankly, though, a ground that has recently installed state of the art drainage and had heavy investment from the ECB given its Test level status has seen something go seriously wrong to not get a single ball bowled in three days. Chief executive Mark Arthur was quick to quash claims that the drainage system has failed due to a bodged building job towards the new Rugby Ground stand end, where, shock horror the main issue lies. Surely heads will roll for this, but in the meantime, if by some minor miracle the Yorkshire groundstaff can get a game on tomorrow it will be a bonus point hunt at best, a real shame for what could have been the tie of the round.
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