Bairstow enlivens drifting match
Hampshire 351 and 41 for 0 lead Yorkshire 348 (Sayers 95, Rudolph 68, Bairstow 50*) by 44 runs
Bad light, which wiped out the final 24 overs of the third day's play, almost certainly ended the already slight hopes of a definite result in this match. The most memorable feature of the day as Yorkshire continued their first innings was a swashbuckling unbeaten 50 from Johnny Bairstow, while Joe Sayers just fell short of his century.
Yorkshire began the day on 169 for 1, Sayers 74, apparently well placed to overtake Hampshire's first innings total of 351. The light at the start of play was not good, but the umpires this time did not risk the wrath of the crowd by deferring the start. David Wainwright put the first ball of the day, a short loosener by Dimitri Mascarenhas, through the covers for four, but runs were hard to come by under the grey skies, with accurate bowling and sharp fielding.
Sayers in particular made heavy weather of it, scoring only 13 runs in the first hour, while most of the runs came when Wainwright pounced on balls outside off and played his favourite cover drive. This eventually became his downfall, though, as he was caught at point off Mascarenhas for 21.
Dominic Cork annoyed the crowd by bowling frequent bouncers to Sayers, who allowed them to pass; not that Cork any longer has the pace to be intimidating. But the wily old pro knew what he was about and on 95, off 261 balls, Sayers finally took the bait and mistimed a hook, which was well caught by long leg. He had added 21 in almost 100 minutes before lunch, slow but with admirable concentration. With more experience he will doubtless learn how to keep the board moving better during periods of struggle. His innings was played in three parts: often painfully slow at the beginning and end, but the filling of the sandwich was marked by sound and attractive strokeplay.
Anthony McGrath played a brief positive innings after lunch, being especially prolific through the covers, but he, like Wainwright, was tricked out playing his favourite stroke, and was well held low down by extra cover. This began a middle-order slide, as the batsmen played some poor strokes, especially against the short deliveries, and the only one of them to make anything worthwhile was Adam Lyth, with a dogged 26.
The score slumped from 259 for 3 to 277 for 7, but Bairstow was still there and carrying the attack to the bowlers, hitting two one-handed boundaries over the covers and skittered along at a run a ball. He took some risks and had a couple of narrow escapes, but he had little support at the other end until Deon Kruis came in at 319 for 9. Kruis's lusty slogging saw Bairstow to his 50, off 52 balls, at which point Kruis himself was caught at slip for 20 off another attempted big hit.
Hampshire went in again after tea with a narrow lead of three on the first innings. With only four sessions left, in the normal course of events a draw would be the most likely result, and if any team were to win Yorkshire were the more likely, as Hampshire were left without much time both to build their second innings and take ten Yorkshire wickets to win. But in this situation Hampshire had the possibility of a big fourth-place payout in the Championship if they did achieve an outright victory, so there was speculation as to whether this incentive would liven up their approach.
To start with, it did not appear so, as Jimmy Adams and Liam Dawson played themselves in with care against persistent Yorkshire bowling. As they batted, the light again worsened, and the umpires justifiably brought them off the field when they had 41 on the board off 15.3 overs. No further play was possible, making it almost inevitable that the fourth day will end the season with a whimper.