Hampshire slip after recovery
Hampshire 357 for 8 (Pothas 93, Adams 91) v Worcestershire
With the sun beating down upon New Road, it is easy to believe that all is well with the world. Yet it was two teams haunted by the spectre of relegation that meet at Worcester, with the real possibility that both could be playing Division Two cricket next season.
It is Hampshire who finished the first day in slightly the more comfortable position. To take four batting points after being inserted on a green pitch constitutes a decent day's work. They may feel, however, that they could have done ever better.
But events off the pitch continue to overshadow those on them at New Road. It has now emerged that Kabir Ali could yet remain a Worcestershire player after the club demanded a significant transfer fee for his services. While they have granted him until the end of the month to talk to other counties, they have also insisted upon a compensation payment of £60,000 should he leave. As a consequence it could be that he decides to remain at the club and see out the final year of his contract, though the prospect of retaining an unhappy player is one that the director of cricket, Steve Rhodes, has previously said he wanted to avoid.
There is also the unappealing possibility that the whole episode will be resolved by lawyers. The source of Kabir's dissatisfaction with the club would appear to be their treatment of him during injury. Most pertinently, it could be argued that he was pressurised into playing when unfit and exacerbated pre-existing injuries. Whether giving a bowler an epidural and asking them to bowl equates to a breach of contract is debateable and may well be decided in a court room.
If he does leave, it is thought that Hampshire are one of those clubs interested in talking to him. Whether they are still a Division One club at the end of the season remains to be seen, however. Though in the bottom two before this game, the points they took on the first day moved them just above Sussex.
At 280 for 4, Hampshire appeared well placed to build a dominant position in this game. Jimmy Adams and Nic Pothas were both well set and had posted a fifth-wicket stand of 161.
Very well that had batted, too. Though Adams was patient, he put away the short ball with a series of fearsome pulls, and tucked the wayward delivery off his legs without fuss.
Pothas was more eye-catching. Though he was fortunate to survive a loose start to his innings - missing several attempts at lavish drives - he soon settled down and displayed a pleasing cover drive. He plundered three fours in a row off the otherwise impressive Jack Shantry
Yet a spell of three wickets in three overs for the addition of just three runs dragged the hosts back into the game. Adams, failing to get his bat down in time, was surprised by a much faster arm-ball from off-spinner Moeen Ali, before Pothas disgusted himself by misreading the length and driving on the up to cover. Moments later Dimitri Mascarenhas missed a slog-sweep and was bowled.
Some patient batting from Dominic Cork helped ensure Hampshire picked-up another couple of bonus points, however. He has already resisted for 100 minutes, helping Imran Tahir add 39 for the seventh wicket and another 25 so far for the eighth with James Tomlinson. With the relegation battle so tight, they could prove to be priceless runs.
Worcestershire will feel that they failed to fully utilise the conditions, however. Though Richard Jones and Shantry were demanding, there were too many four-balls to establish meaningful pressure. Chris Whelan, recalled while Gareth Andrew and Imran Arif were dropped, conceded almost a run-a-ball through a failure to maintain a decent line or length, while Jones' habit of slipping deliveries down the leg-side undermined a patchy display.
It maintains a disappointing record for Worcestershire. It's the fifth time they've inserted this season and could become the fourth time they've subsequently conceded more than 400.
Earlier Hampshire posted a half-century opening stand before Liam Dawson and Michael Lumb were punished for a tentative pushes outside off-stump. The highly-rated James Vince struggled and could have been out on numerous occasions before he edged an attempted drive, while Sean Ervine received the ball of the day; a full delivery angled across him that forced him to play and induced a thin edge.