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Alex Winter at the Ageas Bowl
September 24, 2013
Hampshire 398 for 8 (Carberry 85, Wheater 82, Vince 82, Smith 4-47) v Essex
Michael Carberry's selection for the Ashes tour was greeted with a few suspicions but as the last of the summer wine was opened at the Ageas Bowl he again demonstrated why he is a solid selection.
Although showing little of the strokeplay that has caught the eye in one-day cricket, and opened the door back into international cricket, against the red ball Carberry played like a functional opening batsman, successfully did his job and was slightly unlucky to be superbly caught for 85 and miss out on a century.
There were plenty of pointers to why the selectors believe Carberry can slot in for England without too much concern. Conditions were similar to those often found in Australia - a hard, flat wicket with some grass left on offering some early help for the bowlers.
The amount of assistance Essex were hoping for having decided to bowl first didn't quite materialise but Carberry was still required to be careful against Graham Napier's bustling seamers - a svelte version of Ryan Harris perhaps - the pace of Tymal Mills - doing a reasonable Mitchell Johnson impersonation - and Monty Panesar's left-arm spin - as big a spin challenge as anything Australia will throw up in the winter.
Carberry showed good judgement around his off stump and was his usual compact, punchy self in attack. He waited for scoring opportunities in his preferred areas - mostly any length off his legs - and when they arrived showed good timing. His most pleasant stroke before lunch was a clip through midwicket off a lacklustre Sajid Mahmood, who conceded 80 from his 12 overs which included 12 no-balls.
He is tighter against the red ball, displaying little of the flamboyance he often shows facing the white one, and not since 2010 has he regularly dominated attacks in the County Championship. His 602 runs at an average of 40.13 this season is testament to that. While many of his colleagues showed a greater range of strokes and were more pleasant to watch, Carberry showed some of the grit and judgement he had to use against Johnson last week.
On the same flight to Australia will be Panesar, sufficiently rehabilitated at Essex to prove his mental state is worthy of a place on the tour as England's second spinner. But Panesar's record since joining Essex is not the form England hoped their back up to Graeme Swann would be taking down under.
Here, Panesar found his work very hard on an non-too-responsive surface. He quickly had sweepers out on both sides of the wicket and was picked off at will by James Vince, who used his feet well to play over mid-off and mid-on. Panesar dragged plenty of deliveries short and was pulled and cut too often for a finger spinner. It took until the penultimate over of the day for him to take a wicket, when No. 9 Danny Briggs played forward to a delivery that didn't turn and was lbw.
That part-time offspinner Greg Smith, who sometimes sends down little seamers if the situation demands, outbowled Panesar should leave him feeling very disappointed. Smith had more control through a consistent line and length - he was Essex's most economical bowler - and did enough to force four errors from the batsmen. The delivery to dismiss Carberry being the exception: a short ball that was pulled just high enough off the ground to give Mills the chance to dive and take a fine catch at midwicket.
A century would have been the tonic Carberry desired to toast his selection for Australia. There were plenty of runs to be had on an excellent batting surface. Hampshire's score came at above four-an-over and squeezed out the slender hopes of promotion Essex still harboured.
James Foster fancied his best chance of the victory his side require was to get first use of a wicket that perhaps contained some moisture from the misty September morning. That Panesar was bowling in the 12th over reflected the success of that idea. It took seven overs for Napier to induce a play and miss from Jimmy Adams, whose off drive on the up in just the third over of the day provided evidence of just how difficult a result will be on this wicket. It does not tend to deteriorate too much, although Hampshire first team manager Giles White suggested this surface was showing signs of gripping more than previous wickets.
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here.Feeds: Alex Winter
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