Patient Hampshire edge ahead
Hampshire 235 for 6 and 300 lead Essex 284 by 251 runs
Essex's Matt Walker was left one run short of his first century of the season as Hampshire took a slender advantage going into day four of the County Championship Division One match at The Rose Bowl.
Walker's mammoth five-hour innings came to an end eight balls before lunch as he was caught by Michael Carberry at backward point, after the Hampshire opener fumbled at the first attempt, to close the Essex innings. Jimmy Adams' 56 then helped steer the hosts to a second innings lead of 250 and with four wickets in hand Hampshire will be looking to build a strong score before trying to skittle through the Essex order.
Essex began the day on 209 for 7, 91 runs behind Hampshire, but lost the dangerous Graham Napier (35) when he nicked a David Balcombe delivery to James Vince at first slip. It proved welcome relief for the Hampshire attack after Carberry had dropped the one-day specialist on the second ball of the day when he was just on nine.
Walker escaped a run out when umpire Trevor Jesty failed to spot he was out of his crease as bowler James Tomlinson palmed Napier's straight drive onto the stumps, but with partners rapidly disappearing around him was Essex's best source of runs. Danish Kaneria (eight) lasted just nine balls before playing on to a short ball from Sean Ervine and in the following over Walker's frustration told as his desire to reach three figures got the better of him, cutting Balcombe down the throat of Carberry.
With a narrow lead Hampshire began their second innings solidly as Carberry (35) and Adams shared 62 for the opening wicket in just 20 overs but the England international was deceived by an inswinging Ravi Bopara delivery which presented a bat/pad catch for Walker.
Adams, in tandem with Michael Lumb (38) took Hampshire past the 100-mark, claiming his half century from 121 balls including one six off Kaneria but was unlucky to be give lbw to a Ryan ten Doeschate inswinger which looked to be heading down the leg side.
At tea Hampshire were well placed on 128 for 2 but the final session saw the Essex attack enforce a mini-collapse and give them some hope of a result on day four. Neil McKenzie (nine) was the first to go after he was caught by James Foster off David Masters and then Vince (16) followed 10 overs later with the Essex wicketkeeper once more claiming the catch, this time from Maurice Chambers.
Hampshire would have liked Lumb to have seen out the day's play but he was deceived by Kaneria and then Ervine (19) went as he lost his head pulling Bopara to Jaik Mickleburgh at deep square leg to present the possibility of an intriguing final day.