Essex 180 (Pettini 58, Balcombe 4-57) and 473 (Shah 161, Balcombe 5-103) beat Hampshire 229 and 302 (Adams 139*, Dawson 90) by 122 runs
The one-day maestros have found promotion to Division One a leap too far. Hampshire, needing to make a further 354 runs to beat Essex on the final working day of the summer at West End before construction of a hotel at the Northern End commences, progressed spiritedly enough until lunch, before collapsing inexplicably afterwards. Although a mathematical chance remains, it is in the realms of slim and none.
Credit to Essex for triumphing without Maurice Chambers, who had a quad muscle strain, and, not least, after being put in and bowled out for 180 on the first day. Ryan ten Doeschate and Graham Napier, rather than the legspinner Tom Craddock, were the medium-paced match-winners. Plaudits should go too to Jimmy Adams, the wholly reliable Hampshire captain, who made a century and carried his bat.
There is talk of Michael Carberry playing for England again, but Adams it is who is the more consistently reliable, as well as the unsung opener of this left-handed pair. He and Liam Dawson took their overnight partnership to 150 off 222 balls in the morning, giving their team-mates, for a while, distinct hope that they could become the first side to score 400 plus runs to win a match on this ground.
As well as having to make do without Chambers, Craddock was proving not to be able to make the ball turn on what had become a flat pitch. Dawson is a punchy batsman, better suited to the middle order than opening or going in first wicket down, and he had reached 90, with 11 fours, when he drove a return catch to ten Doeschate.
After lunch, Hampshire's innings fell away. In successive overs from Reece Topley and ten Doeschate, James Vince and Sean Ervine were caught behind, both playing push-drives, and Michael Bates was bowled without having scored. That was 213 for 7 and Napier was then to take two wickets in an over, those of David Balcombe and James Tomlinson, one caught behind off a short ball that lifted off a length, and the other bowled.
Adams smote Craddock for four and six off successive balls but there was no remaining support other than from David Griffiths. That said, the pair added 62 for the last wicket, of which Griffiths, playing sensibly, contributed 21 - the third-top score of the innings. By the time he was bowled by Topley, Adams had reached 139 with 19 fours and a six. He faced, in all, 247 balls.
"It's been a disappointing couple of days and we haven't played good enough cricket in the last month to earn promotion," Adams admitted, far from exultant over his own performance. "We did give ourselves a chance but we have lacked a little bit of discipline in the Championship when we needed to grind opponents down. Yet at the start of the season I would have taken a trophy, a cup final and where we shall finish in division two.
"Giles White (the Hampshire coach) and I haven't really talked about whether we should rest players in our last match at Derby before the CB40 final. I think we shall try to play much the same side as we'll field at Lord's, but we might need to manage the workloads of one or two bowlers."