Berg flourish cannot disguise Hampshire's plight
Somerset 346 (Abell 88, Hildreth 76, Berg 4-64) and 64 for 1 beat Hampshire 147 (Overton 4-24, Thomas 3-38) and 262 (Berg 86, Overton 4-57, Trego 3-49) by 9 wickets
It was strange really; the longer Hampshire's lower-order fought and the more runs they eked out; the more time there was for the realisation to grow that their top-order had failed yet again and that they are likely to be facing a tough struggle for their Division One survival this season.
It was a paradox of cricketing time in which their late resistance accentuated their earlier submission. The scorecard shows that Hampshire scored 262 in their second innings, but it also shows that their original top five batsmen scored just 93 of those runs, having managed just 44 in the first innings.
For Somerset this win, their second win in as many matches, will alleviate their immediate fears that they, too, might be dragged into a relegation scrap. Hampshire will no doubt look on enviously as they pull further away into the middle of the table.
Adam Wheater and Gareth Berg both played sprightly and defiantly in the second innings to delay what Hampshire's collapse to 69 for 5 in the first 75 minutes of play made an inevitable Somerset victory, but their resistance should not mask a match of dismal failure for the top-order and prevent analysis as to quite why Hampshire are stuck near the foot of the table.
If anything the innings played by Wheater and Berg should emphasise what could have been for Hampshire. This was a pitch difficult to bat on but not impossible, and those with patience and the ability to seize upon loose balls could score runs. That none of Hampshire's top-order displayed either of those qualities should be of great concern.
Having frustrated Somerset for 45 minutes, nightwatchman James Tomlinson was the first man to fall, caught behind off the bowling of Craig Overton for 5. As was so often the case in this match one wicket brought two, which in turn brought a third.
The next man to go was Michael Carberry. Having fought hard for an hour against some testing Somerset bowling, Carberry gave it all away in a moment of carelessness in which he slashed hard, but perhaps not quite hard enough, at a wide ball from Peter Trego and was caught well by Lewis Gregory at gully for 28. It was a loose shot, the kind of shot unbefitting of the circumstances that Hampshire and Carberry will look back upon with disgust.
Liam Dawson will look back on his dismissal with disgust too, but for very different reasons. With the county on a suspended points penalty for disciplinary breaches Dawson was visibly furious as he was adjudged lbw to a ball that he appeared certain that he hit and lingered for a long few seconds before he dragged himself off the pitch. It will be a while until we know whether Hampshire will be punished for Dawson's behaviour but it would add the final ignominy to a disastrous few days if they are.
Dawson's demise brought Will Smith and Wheater together and Wheater fed off the desperation of the situation, counter-attacking with remarkable bravado and, it must be said, remarkable luck, to go into lunch with 48 to his name at more than a run a ball, but with Hampshire still trailing by 57.
Wheater's luck ran out immediately after lunch when he dragged on a ball that he perhaps thought was shorter than it was. If Wheater's innings was breathless, then Berg's was, for the most part nigh-on faultless. Although he was eventually dropped on 75, Berg's innings was arguably the most fluent of the match and completed an excellent few days for the all-rounder in which he top-scored in the first innings and took 4-64 with the ball. He was the lone bright light in a miserable three days for Hampshire.
It was indicative of Hampshire's desperation that Sean Ervine, advised not to bat having received a fractured finger in the first innings, strode out to bat at No 11 with Hampshire only leading by 45. Hampshire captain Jimmy Adams confirmed that he expects Ervine to be out for several weeks.
Berg was the last man to fall, caught behind off the bowling of Overton to give him his fourth wicket of the innings, his eighth of the match and give Michael Bates his fourth catch of the innings on a triumphant return to Southampton for the Somerset keeper.
Somerset completed their deeply impressive nine wicket victory when Marcus Trescothick and Tom Abell knocked off the 64 runs with consummate ease.
Freddie Wilde is a freelance T20 journalist. @fwildecricket