Foster bats on before Hants wilt
Hampshire 229 and 73 for 3 need another 352 runs to beat Essex 180 and 473 (Shah 161)
Finding a modern-day captain who is prepared to make an adventurous declaration, even in the lee of the stand at West End named after Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie, the most cavalier leader of them all, is near impossible. James Foster, who himself contributed significantly to a fine recovery by Essex, preferred to allow his side's second innings to run its course. Hampshire, who must win this match to stand a chance of promotion, were left to make 425 to win.
Not that this appeared to be of over-riding concern when Hampshire's first three wickets fell for 23: two of these dismissals self-induced and the third, that of Simon Katich, to a decent first ball from Maurice Chambers that moved away and took the outside edge. Michael Carberry had swung Reece Topley to long leg and Bilal Shafayat, who will be lucky to gain a new contract at the end of the season, was taken at the wicket through indecision. Chambers was maintaining a good off-stump line to both left- and right-handers.
All on a a pitch on which Essex had just made 473. Still, the strong likelihood was that Hampshire would not make so many runs in the final innings - they did reach a target of 446 to beat Gloucestershire in 1990, but that was at Northlands Road - but Foster chose not to close the innings. His side, after all, had been put in to bat on a green pitch and, having been dismissed for 180, doubtless reckoned not to give their opponents a semblance of a chance. Besides, there were still three and a half sessions remaining and he was evidently prepared to take his chances with the weather.
Foster's approach is the modern way. He will have appreciated that the pitch is considerably easier to bat on now - Hampshire's seamers again looked too one-paced - and assuming the remaining upper order fare rather better than Carberry, Shafayat and Katich, Essex may be dependent on the degree of turn Tom Craddock can extract after several dry and even hot days on the south coast. The batsmen will have no option other than to try to take him on.
Someone will have to bat just about as well as Owais Shah did for the second day in succession. Resuming on 124, he soon surpassed his highest score for Essex, 138 against Glamorgan at Colchester last month, and appeared quite likely to reach the best score of his career, 203 in his Middlesex days. He duly reached 150, off 248 balls with 27 fours and a six, but then, 11 runs later, was caught at the wicket aiming a distinctly tired drive.
This must count as one of the best innings of a career that now embraces IPL commitments. He will be 34 next month and has few thoughts of an England recall. After he was out, the nightwatchman, Craddock, having already departed, Ryan ten Doeschate heightened the rate of scoring with 69 off 61 balls and Foster swung two sixes off Liam Dawson, who had plenty of bowling to do in the absence of Danny Briggs. Essex had quite sufficient runs by now but chose to bat on, and on. Maybe, in fairness to Foster, tiredness after a long haul in the field also contributed to the Hampshire dismissals.