Vince digs in against searching examination
Hampshire 109 and 76 for 2 (Vince 39*) trail Lancashire 456 by 271 runs
When two of the post-lunch highlights are the arrival of the T20 Claphits and the stately progress of a green and yellow cement mixer, it is fairly clear what sort of afternoon it has been. Yet the tedium that sometimes envelops a cricket ground during rain was particularly noticeable on the third day of this game because it was in such sharp contrast to what had gone before.
In the morning session Lancashire's bowlers tried all they knew to take more than Michael Carberry's wicket in Hampshire second innings, but a 53-run second-wicket stand between James Vince and Will Smith kept them at bay. The cricket was of high quality with Smith facing 42 balls before getting off the mark and Vince, who was run out without scoring on the first day, pressing his case for England selection with a crunching drive down the ground off James Anderson and a couple of back foot fours played when Luke Procter dropped short.
Yet as we watched Anderson, a current Test cricketer, examine the skills of Vince, who aspires to play at that level, one's sympathy went to Carberry, who has been restricted to a single Test at Chittagong and all five on the "two wheels on my wagon" Ashes tour a couple of winters ago. That looks like being the 36-year-old's lot as far as England is concerned, yet given other chances in other years, he might have offered his country fine service.
On Tuesday he departed to the 11th ball of the morning when he was caught by wicketkeeper Alex Davies off Anderson for 16. He left the field gesticulating a little and shaking his head. He returned to the dressing room and showed his team-mates a red mark on his flannels. Somehow it rather encapsulated Carberry's career. People will remember his modest 281 runs on the Ashes tour (although that made him England's second-highest scorer) and that dropped catch off Brad Haddin. There could have been so much more.
The rest of the session confirmed three things: the rhythm of Simon Kerrigan's bowling action; the richness of Neil Wagner's competitive juices; and the need for Vince to develop a clearer strategy against high-quality, short-pitched bowling.
The second and third of these are plainly connected, so let us consider them together. In the hour before lunch Wagner bowled an excellent ten-over spell which cost 24 runs. It was fast, hostile and, most importantly, discriminatory. Bouncers were a thoughtful option, not a tedious addiction. Carefully-rationed short deliveries were precisely targeted: one struck Smith on the helmet while another planted Vince on his backside, a fact which international attacks will probably need to analyse.
Vince will not always face fast bowling of Wagner's quality but he will face a great deal more of it should he receive a life-changing phonecall from James Whitaker on Wednesday evening. Sitting on your bum in the batting crease with a South African bowler commenting on your indignity does not generally cost you your wicket. But Vince, who batted tightly and toughly for most of the third morning, needs to answer a couple of questions. Is he going to hook at all? If the answer is yes, is he going to hook when there are men on the fence? He did so this morning and a top-edged six only just cleared Alviro Petersen at long leg.
As for Kerrigan, he is bowling with the sort of rhythm and control he last exhibited for long periods a few years ago, before his evisceration at the hands of Shane Watson in The Oval of 2013. What seems to be happening is that his right arm is doing more work and coming through properly in advance of the left. That is always important to a left-arm spinner. Kerrigan celebrated his 27th birthday on Tuesday; the permanent rediscovery of his mojo would have made a fine present but one imagines that the work began over the winter and that Ashley Giles played a role in its completion.
Kerrigan is probably fortunate that Giles got the director of cricket's job at Lancashire. The ex-England man understands that one small change is often enough. He is not one of those coaches who takes a good spinner with a smooth if slightly flawed action and "remodels" it, so that before you can say "Verity", a once-promising slow bowler is approaching the wicket like a crab on Benzedrine and the ball is disappearing into nearby parishes. According to Luke Procter, this pitch is "turning aggressively"; if so, there is more work ahead for both Kerrigan and Vince on the final day of this compelling game.