Hampshire v Glamorgan, Ageas Bowl, 3rd day May 13, 2014

Hampshire make their title pitch

Glamorgan 224 and 185 for 9 (Bragg 74, Abbott 3-43) lead Hampshire 345 by 64 runs

Both Hampshire and Glamorgan have identical records from their opening four County Championship fixtures but the nature of the respective matches and Hampshire's control of this contest suggests the two sides are destined for different ends of the table. Barring outrageously cruel circumstances, Hampshire will complete victory on day four and move top of Division Two.

Having taken a 115-run first-innings lead, Hampshire rattled off three wickets in 11 overs before lunch and, after a 98-run fifth wicket stand, took 3 for 4 before tea. But for a lengthy rain delay that cost 18 overs of the final session, the match was likely to end inside three days.

Hampshire have assembled the strongest squad in Division Two, with a proven batting line up and a bowling group now led by Kyle Abbott, who could prove the attack leader to take Hampshire to promotion. One day three he took his 17th wicket in his just his third full match of the season (the Surrey fixture was a rain-ruined non-event). The attack also includes Liam Dawson's useful left-arm spin. He sent down 15 overs on day three, conceded only 16 runs and removed Will Bragg and Graham Wagg. Hampshire also have depth with the very capable seamers David Balcombe, Raul Brathwaite and left-armer Chris Wood not playing here.

Balcombe played the first match of the season, where he and Hampshire struggled on a lifeless pitch against Worcestershire. But since then, they beat Gloucestershire well at Bristol and were in control of a rain-affected match at Derby. Essex could prove the main challengers for the Division Two title but it is difficult to see two other sides bettering Hampshire this season.

Their main opposition last year were the pitches at the Ageas Bowl, where only three results ensued, one of those a contrived chase that ended in defeat against Gloucestershire. Given more result wickets at home, and the pitch for this match has been conducive to a fair contest between bat and ball - Michael Carberry called it "encouraging" - and Hampshire have the tools to return to Division One.

Glamorgan have somewhat drifted the wrong way after an impressive opening round victory at The Oval - a result that is gaining more context with each Surrey performance. Rain saved them from defeat against Gloucestershire and they were not too far away from losing to both Worcestershire and Leicestershire.

It is no startling analysis to reveal that Glamorgan have struggled for runs; a common occurrence early-season but with their bowling attack performing well - the highlight being shooting Surrey out for just 81 - their batsman have failed to work them into good positions when opportunities have been presented.

Jacques Rudolph, the former South Africa Test batsman with bags of county experience chiefly with Yorkshire, has so far been an abject failure. Here he collected his sixth single-figure score in four matches. His two half-centuries at Leicester were only modest efforts on a pitch where the home side put up 500 in the first innings. Rudolph has not been the answer to Glamorgan's struggles at the top of the order. His dismissal on the third day was similar to his first-innings wicket: a stroke of little confidence from the crease and an edge behind the wicket.

Rudolph's opening partner, Gareth Rees, also collected his sixth single-figure score of the season, a duck as a full James Tomlinson delivery speared past him. Murray Goodwin played a hideous stroke just before lunch, driving to edge to a diving Carberry in the gully. Goodwin is yet to find the form of last season that triggered a contract extension.

When Goodwin fell, Glamorgan had lost three wickets with the score on 9 and a three-day defeat was looming large. But at least one of their top-order players is in steady form. Bragg made a match-saving 91 not out against Worcestershire and here compiled a 75-ball half-century with 10 boundaries that was a nod to his slightly boom or bust style. He is a strokemaker. Hampshire bowled a little straight at him.

Bragg and the more obdurate Jim Allenby added 98 for the fifth wicket, making progress that suggested Glamorgan could set a tricky target. It was even healthier at 158 for 4 until Stuart Walters leaned much too far outside off for a defensive stroke and edged to second slip.

Tea came at the wrong time for them. After the interval, Allenby added only four before being trapped lbw by Abbott and Bragg made only two more before edging Dawson to Michael Bates. With both batsmen dismissed within seven balls of each other, Hampshire were changing up gears again and Abbott removed Mark Wallace for a duck - Glamorgan would have banked on their dependable captain to boost their lead which at just 64 is currently far too slender to cause Hampshire any problems in the fourth innings.

Follow Alex Winter on Twitter @winter_cricket

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  • David on May 14, 2014, 11:34 GMT

    I fail to see how Worcestershire haven't been talked about here. They are the ONLY threat to Hants and have played by far the more consistent cricket. With Mo only getting in the T20 England squad as well, he won't be missing many games and with the start they've had, to me are favourites. T20 will kick in and, as usual, Hants will self destruct in the 4-day games. Essex can't keep 4 bowlers on the field so they have no chance. If Hants can put a performance in at New Road in a few weeks then I think they warrant being talked about as title contenders.

  • Dummy4 on May 14, 2014, 7:50 GMT

    @CodandChips: Losing Carberry will definitely impact because had he not been selected my feeling is that Wheater would have replaced Gatting as a batsman with Bates continuing to keep. If we lose Vince too then I'm not sure that Hampshire have the batting depth to cover them both. It would be immensely helpful if Gatting could find some form!

  • Wayne on May 14, 2014, 7:43 GMT

    Well I remain very optimistic. Briggs will come in and we have the potential of Alsop and McManus and do not forget Wheater as a batsman. The bowlers have already been named.

    Can see the summer side like this:

    Adams McManus Dawson Smith Wheater Ervine Coles Bates Abbott Briggs Tomlinson. t20 Carberry Vince Maxwell Smith Wheater Dawson Ervine Coles Wood Abbott Briggs.

    Well I am excited :)

  • Paulo on May 13, 2014, 20:42 GMT

    I fail to share the writer's optimism. I doubt the ground staff will be too willing to provide result pitches for fear of being punished by the ECB. Also this bowling attack is a risk. Coles can be expensive. Dawson and Ervine are far from front-line bowlers. Dawson has not become the cricketer he should have and Ervine has the ability to bowl very poorly on occasions.

    Also we are likely to lose Carberry and Vince this summer (Vince will certainly play for the Lions at least). That will put a lot of pressure on the likes of Dawson and Adams, particularly since Joe Gatting can't buy a run.

    Also Bates has to keep playing. He is the best keeper in the country and so must play. He also scores bucket loads of runs in the seconds so surely his batting is improving?

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