Pattinson and Shreck double-act strikes again
Hampshire 199 for 9 (Pothas 44, Mascarenhas 41, Pattinson 3-43, Shreck 3-48) v Nottinghamshire
If Hampshire's 11th-hour inclusion of Imran Tahir was intended to knock Nottinghamshire out of their stride towards the title, it hasn't worked. Needing only to win this match, irrespective of how many points they accrue, to clinch their second County Championship in four seasons, Chris Read's team ended the first day of the deciding round of matches firmly on course.
Hampshire, invited to bat, were 199 for 9 when bad light ended play just before five o'clock. Tahir, in the event, is 23 not out. Having signed a two-year contract for the county, he may well bowl like a demon tomorrow, seeking to continue in the prolific form that has seen him take 36 wickets in six Championship matches, but his efforts are likely to count for much less than Hampshire hoped they might.
They began still in with a theoretical title chance of their own - thanks largely to Tahir's wickets - but realistically needed to win with something close to maximum points to finish top of the pile. Without even one point secured yet, however, they can pretty much say goodbye to that.
Tahir turned up here in spite of Hampshire's insistence, even on the eve of the game, that he had been summoned to South Africa, under contractual obligation, to prepare for a new season with Titans. So late did his availability become known that the first draft of teammate Nic Pothas's column in Wednesday's Southern Daily Echo lamented his absence.
But if Hampshire were hoping to gain something from this apparent subterfuge, they now look a bit silly. The bowlers that mattered on day one were the pair that have taken Nottinghamshire to the brink of the title.
With 104 Championship wickets between them, Charlie Shreck and Darren Pattinson have been the most effective new-ball partnership in the competition this year. Three apiece for them as Nottinghamshire took maximum bowling points only cemented their reputation, even though, in the event, their first spells were unsuccessful.
It was during that period, in the opening hour, that Hampshire might have thought they had a chance, on a dry - if rather slow - pitch, of posting a substantial score. With Michael Carberry and Michael Brown progressing watchfully, the beginnings of a platform were established as Read turned to Mark Ealham and Andre Adams for a change of pace.
Yet, as the opening pair were soon to be reminded, there are few cannier bowlers to call upon to make something happen than Ealham, who needed only 10 deliveries to make the breakthrough, getting just enough movement to brush the edge of Brown's defensively proffered bat, Read snaffling the catch, standing up.
Adams, moreover, has become a useful addition to Nottinghamshire's seam bowling armoury with his right-arm medium pace. The loss of Brown at 40 for 1 was followed by a double strike as he went round the wicket to have Michael Lumb leg before shouldering arms, and persuaded umpire Richard Kettleborough to raise the finger a second time when Chris Benham thrust his front pad down the pitch, bat tucked in behind, but failed to get out of line.
Hampshire were looking by now to Carberry to build on his start and with the left-hander seemingly in solid form they could reasonably hope that he would restore substance to the innings. The return of Shreck, however, dashed that hope, as he put his 6ft 7ins frame to good use to find some extra bounce, forcing Carberry to fend the ball at chest height and offer a chance that Read, diving to his left, eagerly took.
After lunching at 83 for 4, Hampshire suffered two more setbacks early in the afternoon, Sean Ervine bottom-edging a pull from an ill-judged delivery from Pattinson, who had Liam Dawson leg before, playing down the wrong line, just two deliveries later.
There followed a recovery of sorts, as Dimitri Mascarenhas joined Nic Pothas to restore order, although the former had an escape on nine when Graeme Swann could not hold on to a sharp caught-and-bowled chance. Still, 56 was a promising partnership in the circumstances, until, on 44, Pothas undid his good work with a loose drive at Pattinson that cannoned into his stumps off an inside edge.
When the new ball became available, Shreck returned and quickly claimed the two further wickets required to bag Nottinghamshire a third bowling point, confusing Chris Tremlett enough with some late inswing to induce a leading edge, moving quickly to take a return catch, before the Hampshire skipper, on 41, succumbed to a similar delivery, spooning the ball to Will Jefferson at short cover.