Hampshire 428 (Weatherley 168, Holland 81, Vince 56) beat Somerset 180 (Hildreth 87, Barker 3-33) and 135 (Abbas 4-22) by an innings and 113 runs
Hampshire missed out on only a single batting bonus point to claim 23 points as they secured only their second innings victory over Somerset – who received a single point from the match after being bowled out for 180 and 135 – since 1957.
Hampshire have only won two Championships in their history – in 1961 and 1973 – with the closest they’ve come to red-ball silverware since upping sticks to the Ageas Bowl a second-placed finish under the late Shane Warne’s captaincy in 2005.
The famed Test Match Special commentator and journalist John Arlott wrote that the ’61 team was “deep in run-making power, soundly equipped at all points of attack and in which every man was worth his place – a true Championship side”. Those words look like they could equally be applied to their modern counterparts, at least on the early evidence of three perfect days.
A menacing bowling attack, led by the highly experienced Test duo of Abbas and Kyle Abbott coupled with a batting line-up which feasibly has centuries down to No. 10, gives the county their best chance of a title in many a generation.
“From the very first ball we dominated the game,” Hampshire’s captain, James Vince, said. “I’m not sure there is [an area to improve]. I left at lunch on day one and I believe we lost our lines and lengths for a bit but quickly rectified it to bowl them out for 180. You aren’t going to get every ball in the match right but I think we dominated every session.
“It is an outstanding start and gives us an extra day off to prepare for the Oval. It is a great confidence booster. It is only early doors but if we can get close to replicating that performance then after the first chunk of the season, we’ll be sitting pretty.”
Realistically they knew 10 wickets would likely be enough to taste victory on day three, but a solid opening hour between Ben Green and Tom Lammonby suggested a tough day’s graft was in order. The opening pair put on 50 in considered style, on a pitch proved placid by Hampshire’s 428, before Fuller entered the attack to take three wickets in 22 balls.
Green was bowled through the gate, skipper Tom Abell was trapped in front trying to work to the leg side and Lammonby turned a short ball behind – having twice looked uncomfortable against bouncers.
Abbott returned for his second spell of the day, only to be flayed for 12 runs in an over by Lewis Goldsworthy, before starting the next over with a James Hildreth boundary. The South African therefore celebrated with a predictable send-off when he pegged the first-innings half-century maker’s off stump back.
Post-lunch, Hampshire ran rampant and with little restraint. Abbas was Somerset’s main punisher as Steven Davies edged to second slip to the first ball on resumption, Roelof van der Merwe was castled attempting to drive and Peter Siddle steered into the cordon.
Keith Barker had Goldsworthy squared up and deflecting to first slip before the left-arm seamer turned catcher at short third man as Ned Leonard aimed an impatient slog at Liam Dawson’s spin.
Abbas returned again to send Marchant de Lange’s off stump for a tumble and secure the victory at 2.40pm – the first side in the country to win in 2022.
“It is very disappointing,” Abell said. “Coming here we were in a pretty optimistic mood, particularly with how pre-season had gone. We expect more from ourselves, particularly with the bat where we haven’t given a good account of ourselves. They are a world-class attack and we didn’t have the answers. The most disappointing thing is that we haven’t shown enough backbone or fight.”
Somerset’s performance must be put in some context. Seven players were already made unavailable before travelling to Southampton, then George Bartlett succumbed to a shoulder injury the day before the game and Jack Brooks woke up with an illness.
Their inexperience showed in the bowling of Ned Leonard and Kasey Aldridge, 19 and 21 respectively, with some quick, exciting stuff beset by an understandable lack of consistency. The batting also largely struggled against the trio of Abbas, Abbott and Barker.
The good news is the majority of their absentees are set to return against Essex next week, including Craig Overton, Jack Leach and Jack Davey – who featured for the Second XI against Cornwall on Saturday.