Recent Match Report – Hampshire vs Northants 2023

Recent Match Report - Hampshire vs Northants 2023

Hampshire 287 for 4 (Gubbins 125, Vince 104*) vs Northamptonshire

It is 50 years since Hampshire last won the Championship under the captaincy of Richard Gilliat, with the scorer famously having a few quid on odds of 66/1 after drawing the understandable conclusion that an opening pair of Barry Richards and Gordon Greenidge might be quite handy. Those romantically inclined fancy them to celebrate the anniversary in style, and these days there appear to be about eight million online betting sites eager to take their money.

They should go close. Hampshire lie fourth going into the third round but Surrey, the defending champions who everybody fears, have already stolen a nine-point advantage in second. When bad light intervened 6.5 overs before the close of the first day at Wantage Road, Hampshire were healthily placed at 287 for 4, drawing full benefit from a best-forgotten day in the field for Northants. Nick Gubbins and James Vince both struck hundreds with Vince 104 not out at the close.

There are few more admirable cricketers than Gubbins, and his own innings did not require any let-offs, but he can be an inconspicuous figure, batting with such a measured tread that an unwary spectator could easily lose concentration and wander behind the back of the stands with him on 97. With the ground once again in view, there he is, raising his bat and receiving deserved applause. A decent, unflamboyant pro who deserves the good days.

Replays proved there had been no grand statement to follow up two half-centuries in the opening two Championship matches with a hundred at Wantage Road, merely an easeful cut to deep third off Gareth Berg for two runs. Imagine, there were times when such information had to be gleaned from a gateman, whose assurances could rarely be trusted. This was a 14th first-class hundred, dutifully assembled, by a batter who looks contented with life on the south coast.

Nobody wanders behind the stand with Vince approaching a century. He invites rapt attention and only has to be on about 17 before his admirers start mentally penning poetry. He also reached his hundred with a square cut, but this one came against Jack White with the new ball and it oozed pizzazz as it rattled to the boundary boards. “Cinch,” the board said, and so it was.

Gubbins and Vince shared a stand of 198 in 59 overs – the best for Hampshire’s third wicket against Northants – which ended in White’s next over when Ricardo Vasconcelos made good ground for a catch at first slip, the ball appearing to deflect not just off a thin outside edge but also to loop up in slow motion off Gubbins’ body. Extra bounce did for him. Nine of his boundaries came against a new-ball attack he gradually wore down. He is a working cricketer.

Vince was generally secure, although not quite at his most delightful, veritably down with the mortals at times, and he should have been dismissed on 25 when Chris Tremain set him up for a hook shot, the ball sailed invitingly into Ben Sanderson’s midriff at long leg and somehow ended up on the turf. Tremain, an imposing fast-medium bowler from New South Wales, in his last match in a three-match deal, kept his own counsel, Sanderson presumably saved from a volley by his membership of the Fast Bowlers’ Union.

Fail to take new-ball wickets at Wantage Road and an unforgiving day may well develop. Inserting Hampshire looked justifiable enough, but Northants dropped four catches in all, with three in the morning session down to Berg, a zestful cricketer who since Darren Stevens’ grudging retirement is now the oldest county player, at 42, and as such will be anxious not to encourage talk of advancing years. Felix Organ was the beneficiary on all three occasions.

Organ recitals are normally the province of St Matthew’s Church in Northampton; its spire can be seen from the top of the Ken Turner Stand, less than a mile away. Judging by White’s growing despair as this obdurate opening batter was dropped on 13, 18 and 22, Organ’s recital was a fugue in F minor, a key which some musical experts apparently credit with causing abject misery. It certainly did here.

Berg’s first fumble was the most testing, a dive to his left at third slip (Northants had just dispensed with fourth). His next was a grade easier as he dived to his right this time with the understandable intention to pilfer a catch that would have reached second slip, and again found fortune against him. His third miss, in the same over, was the sort of straightforward opportunity he must have yearned for to remedy matters, and White (clearly not one to learn from experience) was cartwheeling away in premature celebration as it descended to the earth.

Northants’ head coach John Sadler sang from the team-ethic hymn sheet. “We’re all in it together so if one of us drops it, we all drop it.” Well, quite: team ethic is a living, vital thing and the stuff of a coach’s job. By which logic, though, White had three dropped, and dropped three so it hardly seemed designed to cheer him up.

On a sunny day terrorised by a stiff, chill breeze, the sun traps were clearly operating more successfully than the slip traps. But Berg ended his own misery 20 minutes before the lunch, dismissing Organ with the ball as he nibbled at an outswinger and was caught by wicketkeeper Lewis McManus, who was playing against his former county for the first time.

The rest of the day was left to Gubbins and Vince, apart from the briefest of cameos from James Fuller, with the floodlights on and the skies darkening, as he charged a length ball from Sanderson and clattered him into the stand high above the sightscreen. It made a satisfying crash, although as far as Sanderson was concerned the most satisfying sound came immediately afterwards when he struck his off stump.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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