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Alex Winter at the Ageas Bowl
May 13, 2014
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_cricketFeeds: Alex Winter
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