Gloucestershire 43 for 2 (Price 17*, Hammond 12*) trail Hampshire 457 (Organ 120, Vince 95, Barker 50) by 414 runs
Yes, before you say it, the two achievements are intimately bound up with each other. Vince is Hampshire’s skipper, after all, and he had judgements to make about batting points, the shape of the match and other stuff. Yet anyone who has watched him drive through the on side or past point knows that when Vince bats as he did early this afternoon this, his innings transcend their context and become separable from everything else we are watching. So often when he is in this mood, there is a simple alchemy to his batting and a suggestion that however remarkable his gifts might appear to others, they seem terribly straightforward to him. And now that Ian Bell has retired and James Hildreth is not in Somerset’s team, there is no more aesthetically pleasing strokemaker in English cricket than Vince.
But this was also a day of four interruptions and they had their impact on Hampshire’s captain. After batting prudently to be unbeaten on six from 35 balls overnight, Vince reached his fifty off a further 68 deliveries with seven fours and a six, the latter being struck straight and clean into corporate hospitality in Zafar Gohar’s first over of the morning. Included in that half-century was a square drive off Tom Price and a back-foot punch off Zak Chappell, and it was difficult to think those strokes could have been played much better.
By that time, though, we had lost most of the morning’s play but at least watching any cricket was vastly more pleasurable than it had been 24 hours earlier and parlour games about movie stars had nothing to do with it. The 15 degrees of separation between Tuesday’s play on the College Ground and this morning’s cricket concerned only the thermometer. The folk who filled the small stand opposite the pavilion wanted merely to see whether Gloucestershire could contain a Hampshire side that was clearly intent on rattling up a big total and batting once. A day earlier, one speculated that the people occupying the scalding plastic seats were masochists who liked reminiscing about the Raj, which has often been a topic of conversation in Cheltenham.
The weather soon took a role, though, and one didn’t need to be steeped in English cricket to see the irony of it. Seven overs into what was likely to be a long day, mizzle and heavy cloud drifted in from the south-west and soon became sufficiently heavy for the umpires to take the players off the field. We anticipated a brief delay but the bowlers’ run-ups were soon covered and an early lunch was taken. When play resumed at 1.25 it was announced that a further 84 overs would be bowled and the umpires’ determination to squeeze in as much cricket as possible was not greeted with universal rejoicing. The Times correspondent fretted that at this rate he was going to miss his dinner and pointed out with some asperity, that those langoustines weren’t going to eat themselves.
The bad light and rain that had plagued our cricket earlier stayed away during that last hour or so and home supporters must have cursed their absence. Muhammad Abbas’s tenth ball of the innings swung in to Chris Dent, who was pinned without a plea on the back foot for nought. The light closed in a little but only enough to bring on the spinners and that didn’t help Gloucestershire either. In his second over, Dawson turned one out of the rough to the left-handed Marcus Harris and Graham Lloyd raised his finger for the second time in ten minutes. Dawson wheeled away in a celebration that would have done credit to Jack Brooks and there can be no higher praise.
Miles Hammond and Ollie Price saw their side to the close amid a cacophony of leg before shouts and a gaggle of near things. The question now is whether van Buuren’s batsmen have the skill and fibre to resist Hampshire’s fine attack for something like two days. We shall see but at least other matters reached a clear conclusion. For example, The Times epicurean correspondent filed his copy and skedaddled. Things were looking bleak for the crustaceans. Some gloomy folk think they are not that much rosier for Gloucestershire.