Riazuddin sustains Hampshire's hopes
Gloucestershire 314 & 129 for 5 lead Hampshire 199 by 244 runs
This match merits, and could well have, quite a finish. No play was possible on the third day before 3 o'clock owing to prolonged April showers, and thereafter Gloucestershire did not bat with quite the nous or durability they had shown in their first innings. They had taken Hampshire's three remaining wickets cheaply enough, but then lost five batsmen for 71 on another day on which anyone venturing out of the pavilion atrium was liable to catch a chill.
The bowler who excelled for Hampshire was not David Balcombe, who had taken eight wickets in Gloucestershire's first innings - although he did have Dan Housego brilliantly held left handed at fourth slip by Danny Briggs - but Hamza Riazuddin. If the name is largely unknown beyond these parts, that is because he is what is known in football as a squad member. He came to the club from Mark Nicholas' Bradfield College and has represented England u-19s. Although his bowling would appear to be little more than military medium to professional cricketers, in conditions such as these that is sufficient.
Riazuddin, now 22, tries to bowl the lot: outswing, inswing, seamers, even quick leg breaks. If he does not know what the ball is going to do - and it would not be unkind to say that some of the time he does not - then the batsman won't, either. He is playing only because Kabir Ali, James Tomlinson and Dimitri Mascarenhas are not, but this was the ideal kind of pitch, coupled with constant cloud cover, for him to make an impression.
The cold weather seemingly did not prevent him from obtaining some movement through the air as well as off the pitch. He had Richard Coughtrie leg before with one that appeared not to deviate at all, and he dismissed Alex Gidman through a mistimed flick to short midwicket. His removal of Hamish Marshall, taken by Michael Bates behind the stumps, could be attributed to his own skill. Never before had he taken three wickets in an innings at this level.
The key wicket was that of Chris Dent, a century maker in the first innings, who now was picked up very well low at second slip by Liam Dawson off Chris Wood. A further wicket or two before the close and Hampshire would have left the field wholly satisfied. As it is, they have some batting as well as further bowling to do to win this match, for Ian Cockbain and Will Gidman added an unbroken 58 in the final session of a day of 51 overs. The upshot is that Gloucestershire have a lead of 244 runs.
Hampshire resumed, when the rain relented and the drainage on this fast drying ground had proved the worth of a huge investment, on 182 for seven. Dent soon took his fourth slip catch to account for Wood, off Will Gidman's medium pace - we have seen little else in this contest - and the same bowler had Briggs leg before. David Payne finished off the innings through bowling Riazuddin..
So a match which seemed likely to finish well inside four days, given Gloucestershire's fragile batting last week and general impecunious state which has affected the strength of their playing staff, will probably continue longer than any other fixture in this round. That has had something to do with the weather, but also is down to the players trying to contend with difficult batting conditions without recourse to attempting to clear the in-field in one day mode. The ancients would have approved.