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Vithushan Ehantharajah at the Ageas Bowl
July 8, 2014
Gloucestershire 94 for 1 trail Hampshire 297 (Balcombe 65*, Tomlinson 51) by 203 runs
It is often the case that we who take in county cricket are guilty of grabbing crudely at even the most modest exploits of any England qualified player. Of course, the phrase "England qualified" refers as much to age as it does to official selection requirements, however loose those may be.
As a result, even the most worthy combatants are footnotes of the young and the next best; your James Vinces, your Adam Rileys and your Sam Hains, to borrow the Nasser-ism. But on an abridged day at the Ageas Bowl, this was no time for sprightly teens.
For the best part of the morning, the stage belonged to Hampshire's James Tomlinson and David Balcombe. You could describe them both as "on the wrong side" and "approaching the wrong side" of thirty, respectively. You would also describe them as good county cricketers, which some feel is to damn them with faint praise. Your James Vinces and Kyle Abbotts will win you matches, but the Tomlinsons and Balcombes - consistent with an all-round appreciation of their own game - win you titles.
The pair also have the uncanny feat of looking nothing alike yet at the same time both resembling lumberjacks; Balcombe with the robust forearms, Tomlinson the gruff beard. After Hampshire got themselves into a pickle at 169 for 8, the partners in plaid set about redeeming their much vaunted stars, who had floundered on day one.
Resuming their partnership this morning, having put on 69 for the 10th wicket, they weren't expected to last long. Facing up to the exceptional Will Gidman, averaging 19 with the ball this season and armed with a new one, the end was supposed to be nigh. A few squirted edges brought about a handful of singles, before something within Balcombe stirred.
As Gidman and Liam Norwell attacked the stumps, he leant onto his front foot to execute a host of surprisingly delectable drives through the off side and down the ground. To Gloucestershire's dismay, they had to indulge Balcombe with some sweepers on the off-side, as he converted their respect into his second fifty for Hampshire.
Soon after, the partnership passed 100 to enthusiastic cheers and an understated meeting in the middle. From then on, the onus was on Tomlinson to make use of a frustrated attack and a good batting pitch. He did just that, passing his previous first class best of 42 and then moving to a first half century in 12 years on the circuit. In that time, his career average of 10 speaks of an Eddie The Eel level of competency with the bat.
But he now has one milestone. It may be his last. Immediately after bringing it up, he lost shape and an acquired nous that had served him well. Back to back boundaries took him to 51, only for him to hole out going for a third to end Hampshire's first innings on 297 - three shy of a third batting point. Still, it would be wrong to lay any blame at his feet considering his contribution to a vital 115-run partnership.
It was Tomlinson who took the only Gloucestershire wicket of the day when he trapped Chris Dent lbw, after he and Will Tavaré had put on an opening stand of 74. There seemed little out there for the seamers, as both openers benefitted from the lack of movement off the pitch and, thus, a straighter line of attack to push the ball into gaps, before they set themselves and the boundaries started coming.
With 57 overs lost today, a result is very much dependent on how long this second innings of the match goes on for. More rain is expected over the next couple of days which will frustrate Hampshire, who will be the edgier of the two for a result in order to make their game in hand count over top of the table Worcestershire.
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