Vince double helps crush Essex
Hampshire 286 (Wheater 42) and 440 for 3 dec. (Vince 240, Smith 151*) beat Essex 121 (Abbott 5-44) and 135 (Abbott 3-23) by 470 runs
At the end of the match, an attendant struggled for almost 45 minutes to remove an Essex flag that had been on display for the last three days. There's a joke to be made about the resistance it offered, twirling in the wind and wrapping around, tight, to an adjacent cable. But Essex have suffered enough already.
Hampshire's victory by 470 is the joint second-highest runs victory in the history of the County Championship. Ravi Bopara, put up to face the media as Essex filed into their coach in dribs and drabs, was philosophical about it all. There was a long team meeting at the end of day two and, today, there was an indication that Paul Grayson had some frank exchanges with a certain player.
"You've got to be honest with each other in these situations," Bopara urged, before asking for a level-headed reaction in the dressing room. "If you're consistent as a man, you must be consistent as a player," was his message. In essence, take the rough with the smooth. And, geez, this was rough.
The assault on Monday evening spilled over into this morning like a sweaty rave and Essex were the ones stood in the corner, stone cold sober, and hating it. In 30 overs, 176 runs were scored; as expected, James Vince, seemingly covered in fluorescent paint and waving his bat like a glow stick, thump-thumped freely to his first ever double century. All in all, he put on 96 in 74 balls before he was caught on the cover boundary for a career best 240. His runs today also meant he became the first batsman to pass a thousand Championship runs for the season.
Will Smith was more subdued - the bar leaner, admiring Vince's moves from a safe distance - eventually finishing unbeaten on 151, registering his first century for Hampshire. Playing the role of Vince's wingman, he was a calming presence throughout, allowing the 23 year-old to play shots at will, while occasionally sharing the boundary burden with some of his own.
When they eventually parted ways, they had put on 387, the highest partnership for any Hampshire wicket against Essex.
"I actually think they didn't bowl all that well," Vince said at the close. He's right, too. Aside from the odd spell of control from David Masters or Reece Topley, there was little by way of threat or nous. Tymal Mills hammered away at a length far too short for a pitch that offered all its rewards at the other end and conceded 4.52 an over.
He is undoubtedly a talent, but the nonsense around a potential England call are borderline appalling and perhaps provides a snapshot of just how little county cricket is consumed by those who should know better than to push an individual who only took up the sport six years ago.
Vince on the other hand is ready. Quite how he fits into an England XI is someone else's problem, but he has the head and talent to excel. Something has clicked and the selectors are aware of it, keeping tabs on him through his coaches as well as the odd conversation and text.
For Essex, the first session was a torrid one of fetching balls from the rope, momentarily pausing to look to the Hampshire balcony in the hope of mercy. It was full for the milestones of Vince and Smith, including just before lunch when Smith passed 150 and Hampshire went into lunch on 440 for 3 and an outlandish lead of 605.
Five minutes into the interval, the pitch was being rolled and a handful of Hampshire's attack took to the perimeter of the ground in whites to begin their warm ups. A declaration had been made.
Dejected and demoralised, they came out to bat with shoulders slumped and cards marked. There was resistance early on, but the prospect of batting for five more sessions, while staring up at that scoreboard was never going to be easy. Bopara even sent back a message to inform those waiting to come in that batting wasn't all that difficult. Soon after, the ball began to reverse swing and Essex didn't have a hope.
They lasted four overs fewer than their first effort. The last six wickets fell for 14 this time around instead of 52. Yesterday was bad, today was worse. Essex are all but out of the promotion push, and Hampshire go marching on towards Division One.