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Nick Gubbins benefits from Notts generosity on challenging opening day


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Hampshire eke out first-innings foothold after choosing to bat in tricky conditions

Nottinghamshire 29 for 1 trail Hampshire 226 (Gubbins 54, Hutton 3-40) by 197 runs

Nick Gubbins will hope for far more untroubled days with Hampshire than this following his switch from Middlesex this season, but with a Championship at stake it’s particularly appropriate to take the runs however they come. Gubbins’ fifty enabled Hampshire to post 226 on a difficult Ageas Bowl pitch to keep the Championship leaders, Nottinghamshire, at bay and the odds are that batting won’t get much easier.

Gubbins was dropped on 31, 33 and 49, the last of the three enabling him to reach 50 as the ball broke through Joe Clarke’s hands at first slip and trickled down towards the boundary. Applause rippled around the Ageas Bowl and Gubbins sheepishly raised his bat to the dressing room. Emphatic it was not.

Nottinghamshire, who went into the match with a 10.5-point lead at the top of Division One, dropped five chances during Hampshire’s innings, four of which were off the bowling of Joey Evison – including all three of Gubbins’ lives. Evison eventually took matters into his own hands and dismissed him with a brilliant delivery that pitched on leg stump and hit the top of off.

The sun was out and the stag dos were in as the Ageas Bowl played host to a top-of-the-table clash. The cancellation of the Old Trafford Test on Friday had meant there was renewed attention on this fixture and resulted in a number of attendees who only two days ago would have been expecting to spend their Sunday somewhere else entirely.

Included in that category was England and Nottinghamshire opener Haseeb Hameed, who was drafted in at the eleventh hour in place of Sam Northeast and ultimately dismissed just before the close of play by Keith Barker for 2.

Northeast is currently contracted to Hampshire but on loan to Nottinghamshire. Having scored 65 against Lancashire just a matter of days ago, his absence from the XI had briefly been assumed to be because of an agreement between the two sides that he wouldn’t play against his full-time employers. But no such agreement was in place. Having gone to Nottinghamshire in search of stability, he has once again found himself dropped.

The pitch at the Ageas Bowl was green. Very green. It was therefore with more than a tinge of surprise when Hampshire captain James Vince elected to bat. Presumably in the belief that bad pitches don’t get better.

Hampshire’s Felix Organ said afterwards that the side had felt 200 was par and that with the risk of the surface getting worse, they felt more confident they would win the game batting first and third as opposed to batting second and fourth.

Nevertheless, it led to a challenging opening session for Hampshire’s batters who appeared to be hoping that better times would arrive soon as opposed to expecting them. The first hour saw Luke Fletcher and Brett Hutton combine to bowl an excellent opening spell and after 14 overs they shared identical figures of 7-4-9-1 as Hampshire struggled to 19 for 2.

Testament to how difficult it was for batters to find any rhythm was the amount of the day that was spent with players on zero. Opener Ian Holland took 19 balls to get off the mark, Gubbins took 14, both Vince and Liam Dawson took 13 and Organ took 16. Facing the first ball of the day, Joe Weatherley had opened his account off just his second delivery, only to then go 18 balls before scoring his next run.

With fluency in short supply and the third Hampshire wicket falling before lunch, Vince arrived at the crease and proceeded to confidently defend his first ball off the front foot. Maybe the wicket wasn’t so bad? Maybe the struggles of the opening hour and a half had simply been from a lack of quality and all that was needed was a player of Vince’s pedigree to set the status right. Or, as he then proceeded to edge his second ball and miss his third, maybe batting was just particularly difficult.

Regular Hampshire wickets continued to fall through the afternoon with Dane Paterson taking 3 for 52, including his 400th first-class wicket. At one stage Hampshire were threatening to be bowled out well short of 200, but a vital innings of 36 from Organ from No. 9, including a 33-run 10th wicket partnership with Mohammad Abbas, had the aura of a potentially match-defining passage of play.

It will only be clear once Nottinghamshire have batted whether the dropped chances and Organ’s late hitting prove costly. Claim a convincing first-innings lead and a poor fielding display will be masked, but, if the game turns out to be a low scoring affair, they could to be the deciding factor.

Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby



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