Essex v Hampshire, Colchester, 2nd day July 14, 2014

Wheater happy on homecoming

Ryan Bailey at Colchester

Essex 70 for 1 trail Hampshire 246 (Wheater 107, Rimmington 65, Mahmood 3-54) by 176 runs

Such is Hampshire's unwavering commitment to nurturing home-grown players, the recruitment of Adam Wheater, two years ago, from Essex caused a couple of eyebrows to be raised among the members. Their grievances were, at the time, understandable but they are a club with a continuous eye on the future and much like the perpetual development of their Ageas Bowl ground, the separate components of their side are being put in place.

Wheater has blossomed into an intrinsic part of their plans and on the day in which Hampshire underlined their forward-thinking approach by rewarding him with a new contract, the wicketkeeper-batsman proved his immediate worth with a peerless century that could, when all is said and done, be a defining moment in their push for promotion.

By his own frank admission, there was a weighty burden on his shoulders as an "outsider" to justify a berth in the side - he usurped local lad Michael Bates - but after an innings in which he rescued the visitors from the prospect of irreparable submersion at 97 for 7, it was his former employers left sitting uneasy with a nagging feeling of self-reproach.

As Wheater punched Saj Mahmood down the ground with a typically nonchalant demeanour, one local murmured "that's our lad, isn't it", knowing too right what the answer was. Indeed, this was a homecoming of sorts for the 24-year-old who is a product of the Essex youth system; he still plays club cricket for Woodford Wells not far from Chelmsford.

Yet, the manner in which he left Essex left a sour taste in the mouth. There was ambiguity over the reasons for such an abrupt departure but having been told he was third in the wicketkeeping pecking order, Wheater paid his own way out in order to further his career - on this evidence he made the right decision.

But Essex may just be regretting not putting up more of a fight to keep hold of him. It is somewhat ironic that Ben Foakes, the England Under-19 wicketkeeper who Wheater was told was ahead of him in the wicketkeeping stakes, finds himself scrapping for form in the second XI after a barren run with the bat.

But this was about Wheater. Diminutive in stature, he stood tall and fronted up to a patched-up Essex attack that found the early-morning conditions at Castle Park bountiful. Jimmy Adams' decision to bat first on a wicket that had been covered for the best part of two days was questionable at the time and became increasingly perplexing as the carnage unfolded.

Essex's lengthy injury list has been well documented but the fact that Saj Mahmood was selected for the first time since September 2013 and James Foster used eight bowlers during a quite bizarre morning session was masked by Hampshire's disintegration.

On the same pitch that yielded an abundance of runs during Saturday's T20 game, Hampshire made it look like a Colchester minefield. The top-order were all caught behind as they paid for their hesitancy against the moving ball as Jesse Ryder and Graham Napier both helped themselves to two wickets. Michael Carberry - watched by his batting mentor Graham Gooch - scratched around for 32 deliveries without scoring before prodding at one from Napier.

But Wheater held fort and counterpunched beautifully. After steading a rapidly sinking ship with Sean Ervine before lunch, he combined with debutant Nathan Rimmington to put on 115 for the eighth wicket with the Australian playing more than the role of subordinate with an impressive unbeaten fifty of his own.

Wheater punished Essex's profligacy as a hint of complacency crept into their endeavours. He was particularly strong on the back foot, rocking back and slapping anything short through midwicket or square leg; the majority of his twelve boundaries were on the leg side but as he grew in confidence, his whole array of shots were unveiled.

It was a method that proved fruitful on a pitch that, as the day wore on, became a haven for batting in glorious sunshine. Tom Westley and Ravi Bopara reaffirmed just that as they negotiated a tricky last session to ensure Essex, despite Wheater's exploits, hold the cards in this rain-reduced encounter. Regardless of the result, it may just be Wheater and Hampshire with the last laugh.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on July 15, 2014, 12:29 GMT

    I guess if England wants an innovative captain, James Foster might be tried. It's not often you see all the fielders except the wicketkeeper (who of course is Foster himself) given a bowl when the opposition only makes 246.

    Seriously, though, Foster is a terrific keeper and a very decent batsman. He'd be a great help to the bowlers and the captain in the England side, if a change is contemplated or necessary.

  • Paulo on July 15, 2014, 11:44 GMT

    @shillingsworth the commitment to homegrown talent has mainly changed over the last couple of years with all the signings. Adams, Wood, Briggs, Bates, Vince, Mascarenhas, Dawson have all been the core of the limited overs sides, where as the likes of Tomlinson, Balcombe and Griffiths in the 4 day side. And the likes of Terry, Rouse and Howell all have had some goes. Though it's nothing compared to Yorkshire.

  • Bernard Arthur on July 15, 2014, 11:26 GMT

    I have been an Essex supporter for some 65 years and i am glad that players who have passed through our county academy prove successful. In my opinion it is important that the players and spectators are happy, so I heartily approve of allowing players who see little chance of success in our team being allowed to look for the opportunity elsewhere. Wheater is an excellent keeper/batter, but, at Essex, he probably saw little chance of playing regular first-class cricket, in view of the presence of one of the best keepers in the current game as captain of our present team. So good luck to him at Hampshire. Let's hope that James Foster continues to excel for many years.

  • Cricinfouser on July 15, 2014, 10:22 GMT

    Not convinced by Hampshire's 'unwavering commitment to nurturing home grown players'. More than half the current side aren't home grown (Carberry, Smith, Wheater, Coles, Rimmington and Ervine). I don't see how they are better (or worse) than any other county.

  • ESPN on July 15, 2014, 8:55 GMT

    I too really cannot understand what is happening to our batsmen. I hope we can hold out till

  • Paulo on July 15, 2014, 6:52 GMT

    I really don't understand what's happening to Hampshire.

    For some reason all the players have lost form at once. Especially the batsmen. And it's happened in both formats.

    At least Wheater has saved us from total disaster. Well done to him and to Rimmington.

    You can understand understand why there was opposition to signing Wheater given we already had Bates and Rouse, 2 fine glovemen. And both apparently were scoring a lot of runs in the seconds but weren't given a chance in the first team. Wheater has hardly been prolific with the bat, and his keeping is ok, but it's a good performance from him today to rescue us. And his first class career average is pretty high, so he can clearly bat. His average has only recently dipped below 40.

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