Hampshire 325 for 5 (Vince 92, Smith 90, Adams 53, Ervine 50 ) v Durham
Hampshire's pursuit of the 22 points they began this game needing to guarantee safety, and a second consecutive Great Escape, could barely have started better. By day's end, on a pitch already turning with some venom, four of those points were in the bag. A fifth - they need 30 runs in 13 overs - seems there for the taking. Events at Edgbaston are going their way.
There was, it seems, a masterplan in place. The players have been agonising over this pitch since their last game, against Surrey at the Oval, finished in a draw 11 days ago. Then James Vince, the captain, had hinted that they wanted, perhaps needed, the ball to turn and that Mason Crane, Liam Dawson and even Will Smith would have substantial roles to play with the ball. Spin-bowling, as Hampshire had suspected and Vince subsequently proved in his fine hand of 92, is not Durham's forte.
Smith, who made 90, seemed pleased with Hampshire's day. "It's a wicket where we don't think it's going to get any better so getting as many runs as we can first up is great," he said. "To be 370 on day one is great, with some bonus points - get that final one and we have done well."
Paul Collingwood looked up (on a cold, cloudy morning), not down (at a dry, straw-coloured surface with a small ridge running down it that apparently had umpire Geoff Cook smiling before play), and invited Hampshire to bat without so much as the flick of a coin.
In trying to play to his strengths - seam and swing, he was unwittingly playing his part in the masterplan. Hampshire wanted to bat first, bat big, and then let the pitch disintegrate under Crane and Dawson's watch. The sight of Ryan Pringle's off-breaks coming on - and immediately finding turn - to try and break in the game's 12th over reaffirmed this.
Pringle would bowl 31 overs by the end of the day and take three wickets - the first and third, left-handers Tom Alsop and Ryan McLaren, both lbw, with notable turn - but at the significant cost of a daddy ton of runs. The other wicket, Sean Ervine caught behind trying to cut a ball too close to him, came a ball after the batsman reached 50 (his fifth in six innings), just as he was looking to cut loose.
There was plenty of spin, but even more loose balls. "We have played the turn well," said Smith, "trying to put pressure onto their spinners. It will be interesting what happens once we bowl because it should turn consistently and more and more as the game goes on."
"It was a disappointing day," said Collingwood, "the amount it is turning on day one you would expect to take more wickets. I knew it was going to turn for day one, there is a lot of sand on that wicket which is the same tactic Somerset seem to be using as well. But we didn't quite get it right and to only get six wickets on day one is pretty disappointing."
Vince, particularly, mauled Pringle, to the tune of 52 from 45 balls. Having walked to the crease a ball after lunch, he instantly looked at ease, exploiting the vast gaps for twos and threes from dabbed sweeps and late cuts. There was that cover-drive, which felt so much safer to the spinners but was played with control to the seamers too, while a single Pringle over yielded two swept fours and a skip down for six over long-on. In the blink of an eye he had a 48-ball 50, brought up with his first false stroke, an edge over the keeper as Ben Stokes found pace and bounce.
By tea he had 89, having added the backfoot drive and pull to the repertoire, but he was run out by Ervine shortly after the break. The left-hander pushed to cover point, and called Vince through, failing to note the presence of Stokes. Vince hesitated, and Stokes had the wherewithal to forgo the direct hit, knowing the keeper had time to finish the job. Despite the careless ending, this was the Vince the selectors picked - achingly elegant and, as in last season's Great Escape, doing it in a jam, too.
Jimmy Adams and Smith, with whom Vince shared 102 before the opener skewed to point, had laid the foundations for Vince's knock. They put on 111 for the first wicket until Adams chopped on to Scott Borthwick's second over, his eighth half-century of the season curtailed before a first ton was reached. Nevermind, it had been a punchy, platform-building innings full of pleasant off-drives and dainty cuts. Survival would mean more to Adams than most; he is as Hampshire as the hills around the Ageas Bowl and, in 2016, it is odd to think he played a full season with Robin Smith all those years ago.
Will Smith ploughed on, sweeping the spinners and cover-driving Hampshire into a fine position against the county he captained to the title (and won two others with) before his abrupt release. He knows better than anyone, however, that games are not won on day one. "There is so much ebb and flow to come," he said. "Sure, we are ahead, but Durham are a side who have fought back incredibly well in games like this. We will have to be incredibly wary of that."