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May 23, 2012
Glamorgan 13 for 0 trail Hampshire 316 (Ervine 109*, Glover 4-76, Owen 4-87) by 303 runs
A little over a year ago, Sean Ervine thought hard about giving up county cricket to concentrate on playing for his native Zimbabwe in whatever form of the game he could still participate. There was, though, something about the lure of Hampshire cricket - as well as the lure of becoming an Englishman - that led him to stay put. It is just as well for Hampshire's sake that he did, for his innings against Glamorgan was perhaps the most valuable he has played.
On a green pitch which was indistinguishable from the rest of the square at the start of play, Hampshire, asked to bat, slumped to 97 for 5 and then 204 for 8t. Ervine was dropped without scoring by Mark Wallace, a low, difficult chance, and then on 76, a quite catchable opportunity at long on. He relied on eye, instinct and good timing in making an unbeaten 109, his first century of the season.
Ervine was also reliant on support from David Balcombe, who is too good to be going in last. Together they put on 85 from 86 balls for the last wicket: entertaining hitting against an attack shorn of its three best seamers and which, until then, had performed perfectly respectably. Rather than defend in textbook manner and sooner or later be beaten by the conditions as much as the bowling, this pair simply looked to hit the ball - hard.
So a total of 316 could well be a pretty useful one. For this does not look to be a four-day pitch. John Glover took the new ball for Glamorgan and moved it sufficiently off the seam to have Liam Dawson leg before and Michael Carberry and James Vince taken by Mark Wallace. Simon Katich was his customary adhesive self, compiling 36 before playing slightly across the line at Will Owen as if batting on the harder pitches of his homeland down under.
Jimmy Adams and Michael Bates, by contrast, played straight and watchfully. Or at least they did until the former played on to Owen and the wicketkeeper, who was in form and was driving particularly well, was bowled by Jim Allenby. When Owen removed Chris Wood and Kabir Ali with successive balls, Hampshire were 204 for 8. Only there was still Balcombe to come.
His highest previous championship score was just 30, but he can bat. Or he looks as if he can bat. Ervine reached his century with a six over long on off Allenby, having made his previous best score this season, 75, against Glamorgan. His clean hitting emphasised why Rod Bransgrove, the Hampshire chairman, believes him to be a good enough cricketer to represent England, as he has just become qualified to do.
Had James Harris, Huw Waters and Graham Wagg been playing, the likelihood is that Hampshire would not have reached 300. Even so, Wallace had little option but to bowl first when he inspected the pitch. Until the umpires appeared to have their own examination, and while the groundstaff were in their hutch at square leg, it really was impossible to tell where the match would take place. Still, this made for an interesting day. And there is pace in the pitch.
Glamorgan's openers, the cerebral Gareth Rees, and Nick James, who replaced Stewart Walters, survived the seven overs they had to face on a sultry evening. Their side has mustered just one batting bonus point thus far this season, an embarrassing statistic which provides just the incentive they need to make some runs now.
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