Bates gives keeping masterclass
Hampshire 119 for 1 (Carberry 62*) trail Glamorgan 224 (Wallace 67*, Ervine 3-36, Coles 3-39, Abbott 3-66) by 105 runs
There really is no substitute for an expert wicketkeeper. The solidity of a proper gloveman behind the stumps has been the making of many great sides in the history of the game. Ames, Evans, Knott, Russell have all defined the art which is in danger of being lost in the modern game where runs seem to trump all else.
Chris Read and James Foster are two current wicketkeepers with a claim for glove greatness but neither will remain in the game beyond the decade. Michael Bates therefore represents a one-man club of young cricketers with the ability to inspire behind the stumps.
His work on the opening day against Glamorgan was one tumbling fumble from faultless. He took four very smart catches, narrowly missed a spectacular fifth, and reminded Hampshire that they possess a very special talent who is surely too valuable not to be selected on a regular basis. His sharp work clinched Hampshire the 2012 Clydesdale Bank 40 with a last-ball stumping.
Hampshire do try. At the end of last season Bates was picked alongside Adam Wheater - a signing of some note from Essex and a far superior batsman - but the start of 2013 saw no place for Bates. A Little Bit O' Luck was needed for him to be recalled and Wheater broke his index finger against Gloucestershire in just the second game of the season.
Both his subsequent Championship appearances have been blighted by the weather but two handy scores, a not out, and a half-century against Cardiff MCCU suggest at some form with the bat. His form behind the stumps is never in doubt and his initial work against Glamorgan was a joyous springing to left and right, up and down with precisely two balls getting past him (one of them unreachable).
A Division Two wicketkeeper is unlikely to catch the wider imagination even in cricket circles but he represents supreme cricketing skill of blessed natural ability of which it is not an overestimation to suggest is a rare commodity in the wider sporting world - at least from British natives.
He feels he is at the peak of his game after a winter in Perth working on his batting with Noddy Holder - a revered Australian batting coach, incidentally, not the former Slade singer having a stint north of the border.
His four catches on day one helped Hampshire justify Jimmy Adams' decision to bowl first on a wicket with a good covering of grass. Hampshire have assembled a very handy bowling attack that would show up well in Division One. Given some assistance at home, they could well bowl their side to promotion; too many draws - nine from 16 matches in the past two years - have undermined Hampshire's bid to return to the first division.
The attack here boasted the pace of Kyle Abbott, the bustling seamers of Matt Coles and the nagging Sean Ervine. They each took three wickets with the very useful left-arm variation of James Tomlinson providing the other.
They were grateful to have Bates to catch. Liam Dawson, too, who claimed four chances at second slip - one short of equalling the Hampshire record - two flashing above his head and another on the rebound from James Vince from first slip just when Vince was about to blot a Hampshire catching masterclass.
With Abbott's third ball, a good length delivery that had Jacques Rudolph - a so-far disappointing signing - poking at it from the crease, a healthy edge whistled low to Bates' left. He was down in a flash to hold a fine catch one-handed just above the turf. He then took off down the leg side to hold Murray Goodwin's flick off Coles.
Abbott came around the wicket to present Bates with his third catch - an inside edge from Will Bragg that required a second leap down the leg side - and a fourth was added to end the Glamorgan innings after a face-saving stand of 65 in 89 balls for the 10th wicket between Mark Wallace and Tom Helm.
Wallace is also among the best wicketkeepers in the game, largely unheralded with Glamorgan remaining largely out of the limelight, and he was briefly mentioned in England terms several years ago.
Now in charge of his county he is a fine mature performer and here played an excellent hand to give his side a batting point and avoid complete calamity, which was the likely scenario at 159 for 9. But, with Helm for steady company, he played intelligently for a 54-ball half-century, with eight fours largely picked out cleverly on the leg side.
Wallace remained unbeaten and proved what was possible on a solid batting wicket - evident as Michael Carberry easily saw off the new ball to go past fifty in 86 balls; the pick of his strokes a pulled six off Helm with two men back for the stroke as Hampshire took control.
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