Fidel Edwards crushed the Worcestershire batting line-up as Hampshire skittled their newly promoted rivals out for 127 to win the opening Specsavers County Championship fixture of the season by 196 runs.
West Indian fast bowler Edwards was handed his county cap before the start of play before taking three for 33, including two wickets in two balls, in a whirlwind morning spell.
Gareth Berg, Brad Wheal, Liam Dawson and Kyle Abbott – the latter celebrating figures of four for 45– also took a wicket each on the final morning to send Hampshire to the top of the Division One table.
The day had begun with the simple equation of Hampshire needing seven wickets and Worcestershire requiring 264 runs, a draw appearing a distinctly unlikely result.
The visitors, who had lost three wickets all to Kyle Abbott on the previous day, had what they would have thought was a trump card at the crease in Daryl Mitchell.
Mitchell boasted an average just under 70 against Hampshire, including a double century, and had batted serenely on day three to reach 34.
At the other end Josh Tongue had been dispatched as a nightwatchman for the second time in the match, and while he had done his job in the day three gloom, he lasted just three overs in the morning.
Gareth Berg set a trap with a catching fielder at mid-wicket, and bowled a straight delivery which Tongue clipped straight to Brad Wheal.
Mitchell had only managed a single before he departed, pinned on the crease to a Kyle Abbott ball which kept low and struck low on the pads.
George Rhodes typified the tricky conditions, with the seam-friendly pitch albeit with thinner and puffier clouds overhead, by taking 35 balls to get off the mark.
Scoring a run proved Rhodes’ demise though, as he edged Edwards to Hashim Amla at first slip.
Ben Cox was the next to depart when Brad Wheal slammed into his off stump to send it cartwheeling backwards.
Edwards cleaned up the tail when he had Ed Barnard on the pads in front before find the edge of Worcestershire captain Joe Leach’s bat next ball.
Australian overseas Travis Head, who blocked out the hat-trick ball at the start of the next over, provided the only real barrier to a Hampshire rout with a well-made 45.
But Hampshire, who claimed 21 points to Worcestershire's four, completed their win when Steve Magoffin poked Dawson to James Vince at short mid-wicket.
Kyle Abbott mastered both bat and ball for Hampshire during a rain-affected third day of their Specsavers County Championship with Worcestershire.
Abbott scored an impressive half century in the morning before striking three times either side of a prolonged break to leave his team needing seven wickets on the final day, with Worcestershire requiring 265 runs to win.
Abbott took 60 wickets and scored a useful 418 Championship runs in his debut campaign after joining Hampshire as a Kolpak.
And a similarly prosperous season could be in store, with six wickets and 51 runs already chalked up in the opening fixture of 2018.
The name of the game for Worcestershire was grab the two early wickets and set about a chase, but that was not to happen.
Abbott, alongside Brad Wheal, batted in supreme comfort – with the ball offering very little for the Worcestershire bowlers despite a green-tinged wicket and thick grey skies.
The pair proceeded to keep pushing Hampshire’s lead, which started the day 242 runs ahead, with crunching drives and delicate flicks off the legs the regular method of scoring.
Abbott and Wheal added 72-runs for the ninth wicket before the latter edged Ed Barnard to Joe Clarke at second slip.
Abbott continued and reached his seventh first-class half century from 69 balls – along with adding another 15 runs with Fidel Edwards.
But he ended the innings with an attempted drive, which flew to George Rhodes at first slip - Hampshire reaching 244 and setting their visitors 324 runs to win.
In a tricky seven over spell before lunch, Abbott struck to dismiss Brett D’Oliviera – the opener stuck on the crease to an in-ducker.
Progress was then stunted by a prolonged rain break – which forced play to be suspended for the entirety of the afternoon session and most of the evening.
In total 51 overs had been lost to set up a tricky 16 over spell for the Worcestershire batsman.
And so it proved when man-of-the-day Abbott struck just five balls after the resumption, as he created an angle to slam into Tom Fell’s off-stump.
Daryl Mitchell and Clarke appeared to have bedded down with a riskless 32 run stand before Abbott rapped the latter on the pads.
Mitchell, who ended on 34 not out, was assisted to the close by nightwatchman Josh Tongue.
Worcestershire’s Ben Cox claimed a 22nd career first-class fifty, but Hampshire boast a 242-run lead following an enthralling second day at the Ageas Bowl in the Specsavers County Championship
Cox collected 65 in a quality-filled knock, as the visitors posted 211 in reply to Hampshire 290, to hold a first innings deficit of 79.
Hampshire then ended play on 163 for eight, with a lead of 242, after a spritely evening of bowling from Worcestershire under clear blue skies.
The hosts began their second innings with gusto as they reach 47 without loss – but three wickets in four balls turned the momentum around.
Lewis McManus was caught behind off Josh Tongue, before Adams was leg before to the first ball of Joe Leach’s over.
Debutant Sam Northeast temporarily slowed the wicket taking with a supreme straight drive but was clean bowled by a Leach jaffa next delivery.
James Vince, hero of the first innings with his 75, fell to Steve Magoffin for a second time in the match when he nicked to Daryl Mitchell at second slip.
South African pair Hashim Amla and Rilee Rossouw combined to recover with a brisk 40 run partnership – before Rossouw was bowled by Magoffin.
Liam Dawson and Gareth Berg both fell soon after each other, both leg before, to Leach and Tongue respectively and then Hashim Amla was run out for a promising 36.
Earlier with conditions starting under grey skies, Nightwatchman Tongue departed to the seventh ball of the day, as he prodded Kyle Abbott to Rossouw at second slip.
Mitchell was handed two lives as he was dropped twice, on 18 and 21, by McManus off Abbott, both tricky chances off either side of the bat.
But Mitchell’s luck ran out shortly after when he swiped a wide Fidel Edwards delivery to a juggling Northeast at gully.
Gareth Berg had been the pick of a strong attack in the morning, and found himself in the wickets when Travis Head loosely drove to Northeast, now position at fourth slip, before he bowled Joe Clarke.
With Worcestershire 68 for six, Hampshire would have been expecting a more hefty lead but Cox, firstly with George Rhodes and then Ed Barnard had other ideas.
Like Vince on the opening day, Cox appeared to be batting somewhere else and found run scoring easier than the rest of his teammates.
The wicket-keeper batsman brought up his half century off 58 balls.
Cox added 44 with Rhodes, before the latter was lbw to Abbott, and then 80 in a vital eighth wicket stand with Barnard.
He was eventually dismissed as Brad Wheal went short, pulling straight to Adams at square leg, as Leach fell for a similar trap on the mid-wicket boundary.
Barnard, after a well-made 40, was the last to depart when he slog swept Dawson to Wheal at deep mid-wicket – leaving Worcestershire 79 runs behind.
Interestingly, the Hampshire seam attack of Abbott, Edwards, Berg and Wheal posted similar figures of three for 45, two for 45, two for 46 and two for 46 respectively.
James Vince and Gareth Berg both struck half-centuries as Hampshire held a slight first day advantage over Worcestershire.
Hampshire were unsurprisingly asked to bat by Worcestershire captain Joe Leach in an uncontested toss, with a typical April green top wicket and thick grey clouds ready to assist the seamers.
And the decision was almost immediately vindicated as Leach found the edge of a dangling defending Lewis McManus to be caught behind by Ben Cox.
Vince (75) then arrived at the crease and every array of the drive was pulled out in a well-rehearsed Vince textbook, with his half century plundered off a spritely 49-balls.
Jimmy Adams (33), fresh on the back of an unbeaten 182 in the MCCU match against Cardiff, steadily accompanied Vince with a patient knock.
But having celebrated an 106-run stand, Adams was deceived by a Steve Magoffin leg-cutter and was struck on the pads without playing a shot – the bowler’s first scalp for the county since re-joining from Sussex this winter.
Vince, having brilliantly taken his boundary tally to 14, was then bowled by Magoffin four overs later.
During the steadfast stand between Vince and Adams conditions appeared to have eased, but after lunch Leach proved the ball nipping around dangerously.
Overseas star Hashim Amla (36) battled the conditions but fell lbw to Josh Tongue before medium pacer Daryl Mitchell then produced two wickets in as many balls.
When Josh Tongue hit Brad Wheal on the pads, the Hampshire innings appeared to be petering out, but an outstanding unbeaten fifty Gareth Berg (75*) handed the hosts the impetus.
Berg crashed two sixes in a partnership of 48 for the last wicket – with his own fifty coming from 69 balls.
Fidel Edwards was the last wicket to fall, caught behind to give Leach figures of four for 42 along with his 250th first-class scalp – leaving the visitors 18 overs to fend off.
But the West Indian needed just four balls to make inroads into the Worcestershire batting line-up – as Brett D’Oliveira looped a simple catch to Vince at mid-off.
Kyle Abbott then castled Tom Fell, with three overs left in the day, to leave the visitors 40 for two overnight.
Words: Press Association
Total match attendance: 3,213