Wheater fails by inches as Hampshire triumph
Hampshire 323 (McKenzie 139) and 54 for 0 dec. beat Essex 18 for 0 dec. and 357 (Wheater 98, Tomlinson 5-86) by two runs
Adam Wheater fell trying to hit the winning boundary as Hampshire collected a thrilling two-run victory over Essex in their LV= County Championship Division Two clash at Chelmsford.
Wheater was last out for 98 when a swashbuckling innings, spanning only 98 deliveries, ended when he holed out to Sean Ervine on the long-on boundary.
James Tomlinson, the jubilant left-arm fast bowler, finished with 5 for 86 including the wicket of Wheater, as Essex fell tantalisingly short of their 360-run target.
Earlier, Tomlinson seemed to have put the visitors in sight of a more comfortable triumph when he roared in after lunch with three quick wickets. Essex, who had resumed on 102 for 2, reached the interval on 184 for 4 after losing their overnight pair, Mark Pettini and Billy Godleman, to Dimitri Mascarenhas in the first hour.
A half-century partnership between Ryan ten Doeschate and Greg Smith revived Essex and sent them into lunch with the match nicely poised. But then Tomlinson dismissed them both for 42. First, Smith drove to Jimmy Adams at extra cover and ten Doeschate then cut into the hands of Neil McKenzie in the gully.
Soon afterwards, Graham Napier drove into the hand of Adams to give Tomlinson his third success with his 22-ball spell costing only five runs. That left Essex 222 for 7 but they staged an exciting fightback through the heroics of Wheater and the aggression of Harbhajan Singh.
They put on 68 in 16 overs before Harbhajan was stumped for 40 by Michael Bates after he gave left-arm spinner Danny Briggs the charge.
That was the signal for the stocky Wheater to step up a gear and after David Masters fell lbw to Briggs, he scored all 40 of a last-wicket partnership with Tom Craddock that included two successive sixes out of the ground against the pace of David Balcombe.
But just when a famous victory beckoned, the wicketkeeper found the hands of Ervine to leave the Hampshire players jumping around in celebration.
Wheater looked crestfallen as he made his way off the field, no doubt aware that his failure to take Essex to the winning post had dealt a severe setback to their hopes of promotion.
They came out of the game with three points while Hampshire collected 19 to keep alive their own dreams of returning to the top-flight at the first attempt.