Yorkshire 82 for 4 (Lees 31*) trail Hampshire 400 for 9 dec (Dawson 140) by 318 runs Scorecard
Sports administrators arriving on the field to exhort their teams to do better will always be treading a fine line - think Delia Smith's much-mocked "Let's be 'aving you" at half-time during a Norwich City football match - but there can be no denying that the appearance of Rod Bransgrove on the outfield of the Ageas Bowl on Tuesday coincided with one of Hampshire's most complete displays of the season.
With the bat, they shifted through the gears from safety-first accumulation to all out dashing, as a burst of 77 runs in 6.4 overs carried them to maximum batting points for the first time this season - a feat all the more impressive considering they were 181 for 4 from 69.1 overs at one stage on the first day. They then added a bowling bonus point to their haul by reducing the freshly re-crowned champions, perhaps already mentally on holiday, to 82 for 4 before bad light prevented any further harrying by Hampshire's pace attack.
A forecast for rain notwithstanding, Hampshire are in complete control in this match. Coming as Bransgrove declared his ambition for the team to compete with the likes of Yorkshire for the Championship, this was a serendipitous performance and, given how tight things could become in the shake-up for Division One relegation, one that could have significant bearing on their chances of survival.
At lunch, Hampshire announced that the Ageas Bowl pavilion has been named after Bransgrove, the club chairman and former chief executive who has invested much of his own money into developing the ground over the last 15 years. Bransgrove had hinted last year, after Hampshire failed to win a 2019 Ashes Test in the ECB's most recent major match allocation, that he could reduce his involvement but, while admitting he was "easing back", he declared there were still goals to pursue.
One of those, unsurprisingly, is realising the dream of hosting a Test against Australia, a topic Bransgrove has long been bullish about. The tender process has begun for the 2020-2023 allocations and Bransgrove was positive about Hampshire's chances; the Ageas Bowl remains the only Test ground in England not to have been awarded an Ashes Test. The other aim, more pertinent to the state of this match, was for Hampshire to challenge for what would be only a third Championship title.
"I'm hoping, and quite confident, that in the year 2023, we will stage our first Ashes Test match," Bransgrove said at the unveiling. "The other ambition I'd like to focus on now for a few years is to have a pop at the County Championship. We've been close once or twice, it's one competition that's eluded us but I think we're going to give it a real crack over the next five years."
The completion of the hotel at the ground earlier this year capped a multimillion-pound redevelopment and Bransgrove suggested that a greater focus on results was now in order. Hampshire have been one of the strongest limited-overs sides in the country but their second-place finish in 2005 is the closest they have come to a Championship challenge under Bransgrove.
"I do feel as though we've got to an end with this journey but it's the sort of beginning of another one really, because now we're up there amongst the big clubs in terms of resource, so we've got to make sure we compete with the big clubs on the field as well and demonstrate that Hampshire is up there with the Yorkshires, Warwickshires, Notts and others."
The only way they can do that, at least in the short term, is by avoiding relegation back to Division Two after a single season. Should they achieve that, at the expense of either Sussex or Somerset, it would see eight of the nine counties with Test grounds (Glamorgan being the exception) concentrated in the top tier, a situation that would doubtless increase fears about the sustainability of the Championship ecosystem.
While financial heft has allowed Hampshire to bring in internationals such as Fidel Edwards - who completed a miserable day for Yorkshire opener Adam Lyth, dropped from England's UAE squad, by having him caught at slip second ball - Ryan McLaren and Jackson Bird to bolster their Division One campaign, it was a homegrown player who shone on another murky, truncated day on the south coast. Liam Dawson's seventh first-class hundred was his first in almost two years and it provided the gangplank for Hampshire to storm to 400 and stir hopes of a remarkable victory.
Since retaining their title on the first day of their match at Lord's last week, Yorkshire supporters have had plenty to mither about. Defeated by Middlesex despite taking a 193-run first-innings lead, they have had their noses tweaked again here. Jason Gillespie made his disapproval clear in the changing rooms afterward.
A fifth batting point for Hampshire looked about as likely as a calm day's yachting on the Solent when they resumed on 219 for 4, the start of play having been delayed by almost two hours by further rain. Dawson was the driving force as Hampshire added 73 without loss during the first session; he finished it by taking 11 off an over of spin from Lyth to reach his hundred, having passed 50 with his first scoring shot of the morning.
Dawson had not previously made a Championship half-century for Hampshire this season - though he managed 99 when loaned out to Essex to rediscover some red-ball form - but he led the charge after the lunch, too. Soft when playing late enough to make sure edges went to ground (and often to third man), strong when driving down the ground, Dawson's knock was also long enough to satisfy the Andrex puppy. When he fell for 140, skying a leg-side hoick at James Middlebrook, Hampshire were still 26 shy of their target with 17 balls in which to get there; Gareth Berg biffed four consecutive fours off Middlebrook to ensure they made it with room to spare.
Whether Bransgrove's clarion call had an effect will be something for local scholars to reflect on. The chairman turns 65 on Sunday but Hampshire's players have so far done their utmost to provide an early birthday present.