Clegg-mania intrudes on Beefy's steakhouse
Hampshire 167 for 4 (Adams 61) trail Nottinghamshire 371 (Hales 141) by 204 runs
The fact that Hampshire, and the club's Ageas Bowl ground, remains a key local concern was evidenced by a walk-on part in the general election hoopla on Monday. Cricketers are notoriously apathetic when it comes to politics but Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister (for a few more days at least), was there instead to draw attention to another business venture, of the sort that are increasingly important to the finances of counties as modern-day institutions.
Hampshire's picturesque amphitheatre on the outskirts of Southampton was noticeably more busy than usual for a chilly April morning, though sadly it was not all down to the eternal pull of the Championship. Liberal Democrat leader Clegg had turned up to be photographed shaking some hands and taking a tour of the newly completed Hilton hotel at the ground.
The hotel - which will feature a steakhouse called Beefy's, the first foray into the restaurant business by Ian Botham, a close friend of Hampshire chairman Rod Bransgrove - is part of a £48m redevelopment, though it has been a source of controversy for its reliance on public money and the delays caused by one of the contractors going bust.
Party activists bustled around the place holding placards and attempting to drum up support for the incumbent MP. The Liberal Democrats also run Eastleigh council, which helped fund the development and hotel construction after buying the ground of Hampshire in 2012. The hotel is due to open this week, a year behind schedule, and Hampshire hope it will help make their ground among the more attractive international venues in England. The question, a wag might ask, is which will be extinct first: Test matches or the Lib Dems?
Hampshire will host two ODIs this summer, featuring the touring New Zealand and Australia sides, but Bransgrove's goal has always been to turn the Ageas into one of England's leading Test grounds. A 2019 Ashes Test was not forthcoming when the ECB announced its most recent major match allocation but India will return in 2018; last summer, England began their Test revival with victory here but the scheduling, which saw the game start on a Sunday, and out-of-town location affected overall attendances.
On-field success is only part of the equation, then, but Hampshire's return to Division One after three years in the second tier provides further evidence of progress. Their opponents in this match, Nottinghamshire, are among those expected to compete for the title but Hampshire gave a good account of themselves on a slow day of wary cricket.
Clegg did not hang around much beyond the start of play and neither did Alex Hales, Nottinghamshire's first-innings centurion. With a general election around the corner, most parties are worrying about the polls; Hales didn't do quite enough to protect his poles and lost off stump to former Nottinghamshire team-mate Andre Adams in the sixth over of the morning.
Adams and Gareth Berg, with 73 years and plenty of historic niggles between them, helped Hampshire take 3 for 13 and the ninth Nottinghamshire wicket in time for another bonus point, before a 47-run stand between Luke Wood and Jake Ball held them up. While Wood spent the rest of the day bustling to the crease in the manner of Darren Gough, Ball's contribution with the ball was limited to 1.5 overs before limping off with a back problem.
The cloud cover that had encouraged Hampshire's captain, Jimmy Adams, to bowl on the first day returned during the afternoon, during which the floodlights were switched on. Vernon Philander had deceived Liam Dawson into leaving his second ball - his first he had driven for four - to be bowled before lunch but Adams and Michael Carberry accumulated carefully during a second-wicket stand worth 66.
They were separated by Wood, Nottinghamshire's former England U-19 left-armer, who pitched the ball up and bowled with good pace, when he induced an edge from Carberry that was taken low at second slip by Samit Patel. Wood stood out for his nagging line and he also removed Adams, poking at one even as he thought better of it, for a gritty 61.
The run-out of James Vince a few overs later gave Nottinghamshire hope of forcing the pace of the game but, as the Hampshire members huddled in the stands, Will Smith and Adam Wheater diligently plodded on until fading light brought an early close. Nottinghamshire, having drawn their opening two matches, will be hopeful that the morning brings about fresh impetus and perhaps better news on Ball. Harold Wilson is often quoted as saying "a week is a long time in politics" but, as the Test match in Grenada demonstrated, 24 hours can make quite a lot of difference in cricket.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick