Last-wicket Hants repair after Norwell four
Hampshire 251 for 9 (Smith 45, Norwell 4-87) v Gloucestershire
Hampshire's last-wicket pair of James Tomlinson and David Balcombe repaired a middle-order collapse to thwart Gloucestershire on a day of fluctuating fortunes.
Hampshire raced to 69 for 1 and then 144 for 2 after being put in, only for Liam Norwell to induce a slide in which Hampshire lost seven wickets for 38 in 12.1 overs.
Norwell took four quick wickets with his medium pace before Tomlinson and Balcombe, not renowned as batsmen, came together in an unbroken stand of 69 for the last wicket as Gloucestershire ran out of ideas.
At the close, delayed by rain earlier in the day, second-placed Hampshire had made 251 for 9 from 80 overs with Tomlinson 33 not out and Balcombe unbeaten with 38, leaving Gloucestershire a chance to reflect on why they had been unable to finish off their good work on a helpful pitch.
The rain wiped out the entire first session, meaning play did not start until 1.10pm after an early lunch. Gloucestershire captain Alex Gidman noted the green tinge to the wicket and the Ageas Bowl's reputation for aiding the bowlers and chose to field first.
Gidman must have starting to regret his decision quickly as Michael Carberry and Jimmy Adams put on 69 in 21.4 overs for the first wicket without alarms. Benny Howell and wicketkeeper Adam Rouse, both former Hampshire players, combined to break the partnership when Carberry was caught by Rouse attempting leave.
Hampshire showed no signs of being slowed by the England batsman's dismissal as Adams and Will Smith took the score to 98 before Will Gidman got Adams to edge to Rouse.
At tea, Hampshire were in a dominant position at 106 for 2 with Smith and James Vince well set but the turning point came at 144 in the 50th over when Vince, who had struck five fours in his 25, was leg before to Norwell.
The Hampshire batting quickly subsided in his wake as Norwell bowled Smith for 45 and in rapid, unseemly succession Sean Ervine, Joe Gatting, Adam Wheater, Danny Briggs and Kyle Abbott all fell, six wickets going down for 25 in nine tempestuous overs.
Ervine gave Iain Cockbain a catch at short leg, Tom Smith deceived Gatting and Wheater edged Norwell to Cockbain at second slip. Briggs went to another slip catch by Chris Dent and Will Gidman returned to dismiss Abbott in identical fashion.
At 182 for 9, Hampshire were in disarray and the end looked close as Balcombe was joined at the crease by Tomlinson. Viewed as an old-fashioned No. 11, Tomlinson nevertheless put on 60 with Briggs against Surrey last time out and he and Balcombe defied Gloucestershire despite the many bowling changes made in a frantic last 18 overs of the day by Alex Gidman.
Neither batsman looked in any trouble as they complied their face-saving partnership and at the close Tomlinson was nine runs short of a career-best while Balcombe struck Norwell for successive boundaries on the way to his best score of the season.
Norwell finished the day with figures of 4 for 87 but they might have been better had it not been for the defiance of the last-wicket pair who plundered runs from him as play drifted beyond 7pm and the attack visibly tired.