Will Smith (90) believes Hampshire are "in the ascendancy" after Hants scored 370-6 against Durham on the first day of a crucial encounter in the Specsavers County Championship at the Ageas Bowl.
Fighting for Division One survival, Smith's 110-run stand with Jimmy Adams (53) for the first wicket put Hampshire on track for a formidable total and the former Durham man was one of four batsmen to reach fifty during a dominant display from the home side, who secured four vital batting points.
Sean Ervine (50) surpassed 1,000 first-class runs for the season and England's James Vince top-scored with 92 as Liam Dawson closed the day unbeaten on 47, with he and Lewis McManus (6*) just thirty runs from securing all five batting points.
Adams and Smith compiled fifties and established a 111-run opening wicket partnership during a progressive morning session against Durham, as Hampshire went for lunch 116-1.
Adams looked determined and composed as he made his way to an eighth Championship fifty of 2016, driving his 95th ball to the boundary in the 26thover as the home side passed 100 without loss.
Smith reached his half-century off 80 balls, scoring quickly and effectively as his former side took their first wicket, with Adams’ excellent knock ended by Scott Borthwick shortly before lunch.
The way we see it, we've won day one and Hampshire are in the ascendancy.Will Smith, Hampshire Opening Batsman
We're setting out to win this game and with four days of weather, we're in a position to force a victory and put it out of any doubt - that's the plan. Having a third century stand with Jimmy was really satisfying, especially given how important this game is, and having the right hand-left hand combination worked well.
It's a really good day for us and if we can squeeze another thirty runs out from the next thirteen overs then we've done a great job
Alsop, whose single took Hamsphire to 116-1 at the break, was removed with the first ball of the afternoon session, but James Vince ensured Durham’s joy was short-lived.
Wicked ball striking from the England man saw him race to a 48-ball fifty to help Hampshire move beyond 200 and secure their first bonus point of the match. Vince injected skill, dynamicity and an impetuous flow of runs as Hampshire assumed a commanding position after just 50 overs.
Sean Ervine got underway by spanking a short Pringle delivery for four, after Smith had been caught at point attempting to do the same thing against South African seamer Brydon Carse, and Hampshire’s in-form batsman immediately looked in good touch.
Hampshire were in full flow and playing without fear as he and Dawson secured a third batting point in the 77th over, pushing on without taking a breath after Vince was run out by Stokes, going for a quick single.
Ervine reached fifty for the fifth time in six innings, continuing a spell of remarkable run-scoring since his return from injury, but his wicket was claimed by Pringle immediately after the accolade as Hampshire’s ferocious hitting was briefly halted at 325-5.
Dawson, in good shape following his selection for England’s ODI and Lions squads, helped the home side clinch a fourth batting point in the company of Ryan McLaren (13), who had previously registered his first Hampshire ton in his latest innings against Surrey.
Durham managed to prevent McLaren from having the same impact here though, as Pringle struck for a third time and trapped the South African all-rounder at lbw, leaving Hants 352-6 in the 89th over.
Dawson and McManus will enter day two with the task of hitting 30 runs from the next 13 overs in order to achieve all five batting bonus points, with great credit going to the work of Hampshire's openers and thrilling knocks from Vince and Ervine at a vital time.
Director of Cricket Giles White believes Hampshire's players have given him everything in the Specsavers County Championship this season, following the team's six-wicket defeat to Durham at the Ageas Bowl.
Lewis McManus and Gareth Berg gave Hants hope of retaining Division One status as the home side established a 295-run lead over Durham, before Hampshire's bowlers were undone by high-quality batting from the visiting side, who chased down the required 296 with three overs to spare.
Mason Crane provided Hampshire with a glimmer of positivity by taking three wickets on a disappointing day for the club, who will spend the 2017 season in Division Two despite a heroic fight in Division One.
Hampshire’s plan to bat for an hour on day four was executed brilliantly, as Lewis McManus reached a 68-ball fifty and Gareth Berg added 36 runs off 43 balls to extend the home side’s lead to 295 runs.
McManus was cool, calm and versatile on his way to 62, exhibiting the patience of an experienced veteran whilst showing his age with inventive reverse sweeps.
Setting Durham a target of 296, Hampshire aimed to take ten wickets in 78 overs in order to move above Lancashire with a victory and secure Division One survival.
Mason Crane claimed the only scalp of the afternoon session though, as Durham halved Hampshire’s lead and went for tea at 149-1, with Mark Stoneman (81) at the helm of the visitors’ response.
We came into today with a lot of optimism and we wanted a fairy tale ending but it wasn’t to be. Durham played exceptionally well today and we’ve ended up on the wrong side of the result. It’s bitterly disappointing for us.Giles White, Director of Cricket
The bowlers bowled pretty well and it might have been different on another day, but we’ve come up against two highly skilled batsmen.
I’m proud of the team and I couldn’t have asked for any more from the players. There are lots of positives with plenty of young talent – it’s a shame because I think we deserved more than that. We know what to expect from this Division, it’s not easy. We’ll take stock, let the dust settle and make plans for next year.
We have some ambitious cricketers at this club and there’s a great spirit here.
Crane, having threatened with limited success in the match, generated serious turn and rapped dangerman Keaton Jennings on the pad to reduce Durham to 75-1 in the 27th over. With 51 overs left in the day and the visitors needing 221 runs, Hampshire had reason to believe the match was theirs.
Stoneman batted with steely resolve though, as he reached fifty off 78 balls, and put on 75 runs with Scott Borthwick before tea to frustrate Hampshire’s bowlers, who deserved more than a single wicket from the session. Will Smith and Liam Dawson triggered cries from the slip cordon, but the finger was never raised.
The evening session brought more success for Hampshire’s bowlers, as Crane tripled his tally and Dawson found a way to defeat Stoneman, who had looked immovable before being caught impressively by Tom Alsop, fielding at short leg, on 133 runs.
Durham were all but confirmed winners, requiring 59 runs from the last 16 overs, but Crane managed to take two consolation wickets, as Hampshire restricted the visitors to 282-4.
The late effort wasn't quite enough, as Durham secured a six-wicket victory with three overs to spare.