Warwickshireshire 280 and 47 for 0 require a further 332 to beat Hampshire 319 and 339 (Ervine 102, Carberry 81)
An accomplished century by Sean Ervine has given Hampshire a scent of their first victory of the season, against Warwickshire at Edgbaston. The Zimbabwean allrounder struck a near-flawless 102, his 17th first-class century, to first steer his side out of trouble and then turn the pressure on to the home team.
Hampshire were all out for 339 in their second innings, leaving Warwickshire a target of 379, which would be the biggest score of the match, in a day and 11 overs. The Bears negotiated those 11 overs without loss and will begin the last day with all results remain possible on a pitch which is flattening out, but on which wickets have fallen in flurries.
The third day followed the pattern of an enthralling tussle which has ebbed and flowed throughout. In the morning, the home side were well on top after Hampshire slumped to 108 for 5, only 147 ahead. Rikki Clarke removed Liam Dawson and James Vince with successive balls and Jeetan Patel had Will Smith stumped and Adam Wheater brilliantly caught at slip by Clarke when the ball looped up off an inside-edged reverse-sweep.
Hampshire were in trouble but Michael Carberry stayed firm and found an equally resilient partner in Ervine. Batting positively against Patel, they each hit the New Zealander for six and added 86 in 29 overs before Carberry, having completed his tenth score of 50-plus against Warwickshire in first-class cricket, played on to Clarke for 81.
Ervine continued to play with power and purpose and found further productive partners in Gareth Berg and Danny Briggs with whom he added 60 and 61. Berg struck a forceful 36 before slicing Keith Barker's first ball after tea to William Porterfield at gully. Briggs added a breezy 33 to his first-innings 48 before skying Chris Wright to mid-off.
Ervine perished next ball to a fine tumbling catch by Tim Ambrose, but even then Hampshire's last pair Andre Adams and James Tomlinson added 24 - a frustrating little stand for Warwickshire which might just have lifted the target out of their reach.
Warwickshire's openers weathered a testing burst from Tomlinson to survive intact and trim the target by 47, Ian Westwood moving sweetly to 37 from 39 balls, and send a fine match into its final day wide open.
Rikki Clarke was pleased with his early-season rhythm with the ball as his 3 for 63 pegged Hampshire back at Edgbaston. But the Warwickshire allrounder knows his team will have to bat well tomorrow to win the game.
"It's evenly poised," he said. "We will have to bat well. It will be a tough chase, but Division One cricket is tough. It is good that we came through unscathed tonight and now we have just got to bat well tomorrow and get the job done.
"Batting has been tricky at times but less so at others on a slowish pitch. The new ball has a bit of carry but after about 25 overs it becomes quite a difficult wicket to get people out on. There are a few little cracks there that may produce a bit of a problem but we just have to bat well on it."
Clarke was the pick of the Warwickshire attack, dismissing Hampshire's top three - Liam Dawson and James Vince with successive balls and then Michael Carberry. "I felt in both innings that I bowled well and on a different day could bowl a lot worse and get more wickets," he said. "I am happy with how it is coming out at the minute and hopefully that rhythm and consistency will stick with me throughout the season."