Solanki on brink of first ton for a year
Worcestershire 250 for 4 v Hampshire
Vikram Solanki's fourth consecutive half-century in the County Championship kept resurgent Worcestershire on track in their bottom-of-the-table Division One clash with Hampshire at New Road.
On a rain-interrupted opening day, two former county captains went head to head in the final session. Solanki, unbeaten on 99 in his highest innings of the season, negotiated a testing spell by Dimitri Mascarenhas before the home side closed on 250 for 4 from 69.4 overs.
Solanki and Daryl Mitchell built up a position of strength in a second-wicket stand of 100 in 25 overs and the only blip for Worcestershire came after tea when Mascarenhas and Imran Tahir brought Hampshire back into contention.
Tahir is now in a second spell with the south coast county and a lot has happened in his career since he left the Rose Bowl to spend last summer with Warwickshire, where he won a Clydesdale Bank 40 medal when taking five wickets in the final. In the winter the Pakistan-born leg spinner completed his qualification for South Africa and appeared for his adopted country in the World Cup before he was named International Newcomer of the Year at their annual awards night.
A fractured thumb delayed his Hampshire comeback and after resuming in the Twenty20 competition, he made a first impact in the championship by breaking only the fourth century partnership for Worcestershire since their promotion last September.
Mitchell's first half-century of the season took him to 60 with seven fours - including three in an over from former Worcestershire seamer Kabir Ali - before he was caught at point off Tahir. Mascarenhas quickly followed up this breakthrough when Moeen Ali propped forward and edged to wicketkeeper Nic Pothas to give the medium-pacer his second success of the day.
His earlier dismissal of Matt Pardoe, given out leg-before after making 11, was his first Championship wicket since September 2009, a period in which he missed almost all of last season because of an ankle injury. While Pardoe and Mitchell took until the 14th over to reach double figures, Solanki lifted the tempo straight away with his flashing drives, mostly through the off-side.
Recalled paceman James Tomlinson became a particular target as he conceded 23 runs in four overs in his first championship spell of the season, and on reaching 50 Solanki planted a loose delivery from Tahir over the mid-wicket fence.
By the close Worcestershire were in control as Solanki and Alexei Kervezee, who registered the quickest 50 from 53 balls, saw off Tahir and Mascarenhas. Kervez was eventually out in the last over, caught at point off Liam Dawson for 55, after the fourth pair had completed the second century of the day, putting on 108 from 27 overs.