HAMPSHIRE will need no reminding that at this stage last season they were heading the Championship table. Since then, they have been feeling sport's version of the law of gravity more keenly than a cricket ball dropped from a great height.
They have won just one of their last 17 Championship games and now find themselves a handful of bonus points from the foot of the table. Yesterday, however, thanks largely to an innings by Paul Terry that ended with him being run out six short of his century, they capitalised on a first-innings lead of 67 to give themselves at least an outside chance of a positive result tomorrow. But following the late implosion of their middle order that saw them slide from 165 for 2 to 256 for 9, Nottinghamshire might be excused for believing that Hampshire's outside chance is now distinctly al fresco.
If Sean Morris had been instructed to get their second innings under way with a steady start, no praise could be too fulsome for his efforts. In the hour and 45 minutes that he batted before lunch just nine runs were prodded from his reluctant bat. Morris's innings did at least provide the Trent Bridge crowd with an opportunity to work out that if the opener went on to score a century at the same rate, it would take 20 hours or three full days' play. Morris's cautiously compiled 42 was quite understandable, though, given the absence of Robin Smith and Mark Nicholas.
If there was any hope, however, that David Gower might provide the entertainment at the other end while making calls for his return to the England fold unanswerable, it proved to be short- lived. Another decent innings from the left-hander following his superb 153 on Thursday and Ted Dexter might well have been forced into another U-turn in his Gower policy. But three balls after Tony Middleton had holed out Gower was back in the pavilion.
It was left to Paul Terry, acting as captain in this game, to shoulder the responsibility of providing his county with a match-winning score. He had more than fulfilled his duties before being called for an absurd single that left him short of his crease, six short of his hundred and short, presumably, of a few kind words for his team-mate.