Hampshire give themselves a shot at revival
Hampshire 305 v Nottinghamshire 270
In an intriguingly balanced match on a testing pitch, Hampshire have a platform from which they might just lift their spirits after a woefully poor beginning to the season with a win over the First Division leaders. It is an unsteady platform, for sure, represented by a lead of just 35 runs, but after losing four of their first five matches in the Championship, to be in with a chance at the half-way stage in this one must feel like progress.
Much will depend, of course, on how they bowl on day three, given that a big target on the last day could be a daunting prospect for a batting line-up lacking Michael Carberry as well as Michael Lumb and Dimitri Mascarenhas. Variable bounce is likely to be a factor on a dry, cracked pitch.
They will look again to Jimmy Adams, who missed out by four runs on a first century of the campaign but was the fulcrum nonetheless of a steadfast performance from Hampshire, whose record contrasts with Nottinghamshire's four wins from four.
It could be a good moment, too, for Neil McKenzie, the former South African Test batsman, to properly prove his value to the county after a slow start to his Hampshire career. The way in which he ended a run of low scores with a first half-century in the Championship perhaps signalled a timely return to form.
Two partnerships were pivotal on day two, the first of which saw Adams and Chris Benham add 115 after the loss of nightwatchman James Tomlinson left them 39 for 2.
At the start of it, Darren Pattinson bowled superbly, maintaining excellent control, finding movement off the pitch as well as through the air and beating the bat repeatedly. He looked a bit like the Pattinson of two years ago, before he earned his solitary and controversial Test call-up. James Whitaker, the England selector, was looking on, as he often was then, although it would be a surprise if he is mentioned in dispatches this time.
Charlie Shreck was no less impressive and when he and Pattinson gave way, Andre Adams and Paul Franks kept up the pressure. In an enthralling contest, the Hampshire pair were made to work for their runs.
Indeed, their application was impressive, in particular from Jimmy Adams, who grafted for 153 balls to get to 50, although he should have been caught at second slip off his namesake's bowling on 37, Neil Edwards spilling the chance.
Benham, who had a painful blow on the elbow facing Adams the bowler, survived a difficult chance to the wicketkeeper off Pattinson on 20 soon after lunch.
Adams at last found an opportunity to attack when Nottinghamshire introduced Samit Patel's left-arm spin an hour into the afternoon session. His next 46 runs came much more briskly, all bar six of them in boundaries, but Nottinghamshire regained the initiative again when Shreck broke the stand by bowling Benham.
Then Franks, who had been turned down in a vigorous appeal for lbw moments earlier, found some extra bounce and movement to Adams, who was caught behind off a thin contact and walked without waiting for the umpire's verdict.
Franks, whose all-round talents saw him accelerated into the England one-day side a decade ago only for a knee injury to blunt his progress, has been in and out of the Nottinghamshire side in recent years but seems to be thriving again now, with Mark Ealham's retirement offering the chance to forge a permanent place. Full of confidence, he struck again four balls later in the same over, James Vince hitting him straight to Steven Mullaney at midwicket. Vince is a young man who might interest Whitaker and company at some stage, but not on this occasion.
With his quick demise, Hampshire were five down and still 102 adrift. Nottinghamshire sensed a chance to take the upper hand decisively.
But McKenzie and Nic Pothas had other ideas. Adding 74 in 23 overs, they swung the balance again towards Hampshire before, Pattinson, with the new ball, trapped McKenzie leg before with a fuller delivery.
Adams, whose last spell was his best, dismissed Pothas and mopped up the tail to finish with 4 for 56, but not before Sean Ervine had eked out a valuable unbeaten 31 for a lead of 35.