Under pressure pair James Hildreth and Joe Weatherley proved their worth with half-centuries as Hampshire enjoyed an impressive opening day to the 2022 LV= Insurance County Championship.
The former ploughed a lone furrow by scoring 87, his 126th first-class score over 50, with absent-plagued Somerset collapsing twice to get bowled out for 180.
While Weatherley saw off the new ball to reach an unblemished 65 – Hampshire closed on 109 without loss, just 71 runs behind.
Hildreth was dragged to the crease within 10 overs after Somerset had won the toss and chosen to bat first. Ben Green edged Muhammad Abbas to second slip before Kyle Abbott produced an away jagging delivery, that wouldn’t have been out of place in his famous 17 for 86 against this opposition in 2019, to find Tom Abell edging to third slip.
Hampshire’s bowling attack was relentless. Holland had Tom Lammonby caught behind, Lewis Goldsworthy was lbw to one which straightened from Abbas and Steven Davies was castled by Keith Barker leaving the last ball of the morning.
Lunch saw Hampshire pay tribute to former captain Shane Warne, who died aged 52 last month, with a video played on the big screen and crowd members permitted on the outfield for a minute of applause.
The interval also saw Hampshire captain James Vince depart to attend the funeral of his father-in-law, with Abbott taking over the leadership. And he found Hildreth an immovable object, alongside Roelof van der Merwe.
Hildreth has recorded at least one score of fifty or more in each County Championship season since 2004, and found fluency on a decent Ageas Bowl pitch which offered springy bounce. That characteristic saw square either side of the wicket the most profitable areas to score, with the cut shot a trademark. The shot that brought half-century, in 89 balls, was the perfect encapsulation of this, as it rocketed past point.
The Hildreth/van der Merwe combination raised the visitors from their 61 for five malaise, to a healthy 134 for six, before a second act of the collapse. The Netherlands international chopped James Fuller onto his own off stump before Liam Dawson struck with a sumptuous loopy yorker to see off Hildreth with his first delivery of the season.
The final three wickets fell for just a single run in 13 balls, as Barker had Peter Siddle caught at first slip and Marchant de Lange bowled while slogging, either side of Kasey Aldridge bowled playing down the wrong line by Dawson.
Hampshire’s average first innings opening stand in 2021 was 26, which has led to pressure being put on Weatherley’s position in the team. Those worries about his selection felt less weighty, as he cruised through the evening session with Ian Holland. The homegrown batter rushed to an 83-ball half-century – his first since last July and 10th of his first-class career.
Holland was dropped on 33 at point but otherwise, the hosts were untroubled as they eased to the close.
ding off Somerset's innings of 180 by clean bowling Marchant de Lange.
After tea, it was the turn of Joe Weatherley and Ian Holland to take to the crease, and whilst there were a few ooh's and aah's from the Somerset attack, both openers saw off the new ball, and began to settle into their stride.
Holland played an array of cut shots, whilst Weatherley looked to the drive as his main scoring shot.
The latter, who was struggling for form pre-season, reached his 9th First-Class 50 off 83 balls with six fours, including a sumptuous cover drive off Aldridge.
The pair walked off together having reached 65 and 41 not out with the score on 109-0, with Hampshire trailing by just 71 runs at the end of Day One.
Joe Weatherley masterfully scored his highest LV= Insurance County Championship score as Hampshire racked up a massive first-innings lead on Somerset.
Opening batter Weatherley had only previously scored one first-class century, a 126 not out against Lancashire in 2018, but waltzed to a brilliant 168.
Ian Holland and the typically stylish James Vince notched half-centuries as Hampshire rode to 428 and into a first-innings advantage of 248 runs.
Where in the previous winter those white ball abilities were at the forefront of Weatherley’s training, this off-season he sought to rebalance his attention. A lean pre-season saw more focus on his position in the team, with worries that he might be the weak link in Hampshire’s push for a first Championship since 1973.
But the winter work with coaches Tony Middleton, Jimmy Adams and Graeme Welch appeared to pay dividends on a helpful pitch. Weatherley concentrated on a more side-on and compact stance, which when coupled with his stillness, has helped improve his alignment and allowed him to play the ball later. The white-ball advancement has also aided him to avoid blocking himself into a shell.
The highly-popular Weatherley brought up his 179-ball century with a drive through mid-wicket. He needed a moment to compose himself before raising his bat to a packed home balcony and receiving a long hug from Nick Gubbins.
Opening partner Ian Holland was equally confident in his 81, as the duo wiped out exactly Somerset’s first-innings score of 180 in domineering style. The USA-born Australian departed when turning to leg slip, but not before celebrating Hampshire’s highest first-wicket stand since 2016.
Somerset’s inexperienced attack rued most of the day but found a purple patch on either side of the second new ball. Gubbins feathered behind for an aesthetically pleasing 37, Weatherley was bowled shouldering his arms and Liam Dawson cut to cover – the latter two wickets handing Peter Siddle and Ned Leonard their maiden scalps for Somerset.
James Vince began his season with a dismissive backfoot drive to the cover boundary as he totted up runs at a rapid rate – his half-century coming in 64 deliveries – as Hampshire’s score kept rising.
The captain was lbw for 56 and James Fuller was caught behind, before Green belatedly entered the attack to claim a career-best three late wickets – Ben Brown jabbed him to midwicket, Felix Organ was knocked over and Kyle Abbott lost his off stump.
A run out ended the Hampshire innings before Abbott and Keith Barker gave Green and Tom Lammonby a working over in a tricky end of day spell.
Mohammed Abbas both claimed four wickets as LV= Insurance County Championship hopefuls Hampshire thumped Somerset by an innings and 113 runs inside three days.
James Fuller had torn through the top order with a trio of quick-fire wickets in a brutal morning spell, before Pakistan international Abbas ripped the middle-order to celebrate four for 22.
Hampshire missed out on only a single bonus point to claim 23 points as they claimed 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. It has been a long 49 years.
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.
Realistically they knew 10 wickets would likely be enough to taste victory on day three, but after a solid opening hour between Ben Green and Tom Lammonby gave the suggestion 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 James 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 legside and Tom Lammonby turned a short ball behind – having twice looked uncomfortable against bouncers.
Kyle 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 made punisher as he had Steven Davies edge to second slip to the first ball on resumption, castled Roelof van der Merwe and found Peter Siddle defending into the cordon.
Barker had Goldsworthy squared up and deflecting to first slip before the left-arm seamer turned catcher at short third man as Ned Leonard impatiently failed with a slog against 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.