Berg's all-round show leaves Root and Bairstow in the shade
Yorkshire 128 for 6 (Ballance 63*, Berg 4-32) trail Hampshire 455 (Vince 147, Berg 99*, Coad 4-71) by 327 runs
Heard the one about the Italian allrounder with a Batman tattoo? He might just have played one of the finest all-round hands in Hampshire's recent history. No jokes, here: Gareth Berg, having made hay against a weary Yorkshire attack to pilfer 99 unbeaten runs, turned the tie with a new-ball spell of 3 for 11 in his first six overs.
Giving himself every chance with lengths that tempted and lines that probed, Berg removed both Yorkshire openers and then had the prized scalp of Joe Root in his first innings for Yorkshire since becoming England Test captain. Berg would late return later to take a fourth - Tim Bresnan adjudged caught behind. Jonny Bairstow, also batting for the first time this season after the ECB's contentiously imposed rest, was trapped on the crease by Brad Wheal for 7.
Berg's knock and demolition job overlapped in the most pulsating hour of play in two days that have, largely, tested the patience of anyone without Hampshire allegiances. This type of pitch that is far worse than any minefield that leads to an ECB reprimand. Which makes Berg's new ball performance all the more impressive. His story so far is a heck of a tale.
He left South Africa to pro on the club cricket scene, eventually getting some 2nd XI games for Northamptonshire in 2004. While that came to nothing, a switch to Radlett Cricket Club got him an in with Middlesex that eventually turned into his first full-time contract in 2007, aged 26.
It was for Middlesex that he scored his last first-class hundred: 130 not out in the first innings of a match against Leicestershire in 2011 that secured the county's promotion to Division One. In the second innings, with 124 needed for victory, Berg smashed six, four, then six to seal victory.
The moment is immortalised in a tattoo of three dice on his left forearm showing six, four, six. It supplemented a Batman tattoo on the same arm. A year later, he was representing Italy in the 2012 World T20 qualifiers through the Italian passport that helped bring him to the UK.
His departure from Middlesex was a sad one for all parties: a popular member of the dressing room and lower-order firefighter restricted to just one game in his final year because of a shoulder injury. Overcoming it was no certainty, so the fact that Berg is playing in his 31st first-class match for Hampshire since his first season at the Ageas Bowl in 2015 speaks volumes of his work ethic.
Here, a third Championship century looked nailed on. Yorkshire had the best of the morning session, taking four wickets and conceding just 68, leaving Hampshire 349 for 8 at lunch. But just as hopes of a sizeable first innings were diminishing, Berg resurrected them. He drove powerfully from a still base but perhaps did his best work when moving forward to Adil Rashid: 46 runs came from their seven overs against each other, with Berg depositing Rashid for two huge sixes, too. Rashid came close to his wicket, drawing a flashy edge that Lyth put down at first slip.
But, on 99, Berg watched on as No. 11 Wheal guided a tame delivery from Root into the hands of Lyth at slip. Berg did well to hide his anger, turning almost immediately to the dressing room and walking off (Wheal a long way behind). It was the second time that Berg had finished on 99 for Hampshire - his highest score for the county - after a match against Sussex in 2015 in which he was run out having a dart for that single to take him to three figures. There's no doubt the frustration fuelled what was to come.
While the first two dismissals of Alex Lees lbw and Lyth bowled were all his own work, Kyle Abbott deserves an assist for the wicket of Root. Bowling with good pace from the Pavilion End, Abbott tested Root's resilience outside off stump, beating both edges of the bat. Aside from a leg stump delivery that Root worked away for four through square leg, almost everything Abbott sent down had Root second-guessing his footwork. Abbott's former international team-mates should take notes. A tempter from Berg that got big was enough to tempt Root into a poke behind. Yorkshire were left reeling on 18 for 3.
Abbott was eventually rewarded with the scalp of Peter Handscomb, though the Australia did look to have been struck outside the line while playing forward. Yorkshire's hopes of rescuing this game lie with their captain Gary Ballance. At times passive in the field, he set his stall out early: one run from his opening 25 deliveries, then the 49 runs for his half-century coming in the next 64.
He remained unmoved with Rashid, willed on by a dressing room disgruntled by a handful of key decisions that did not go their way. As recent history shows, this Ageas Bowl pitch will not deteriorate much and this game is still very salvageable.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport