HAVING had the chance to deliver a knock-out punch the previous evening, when a boundary off the last ball at New Road would have accounted for Worcestershire, it was back to sparring here for Hampshire yesterday. Kent, too, had been held to a draw last time out and, with Essex on a break, the St Lawrence Ground might be in with a half-decent chance of some niftier work by the end of this contest.
After all, the Championship prize money beckons for these two and even if the winners cheque for pounds 46,000 ends up in Chelmsford, there are still five-figure sums on offer for finishing in the top three.
This is the match in which Kent (48 points adrift before the start) and Hampshire (57 in arrears) draw level with the champions on games played. Having won the toss and batted, Hampshire quite often found themselves pinned in a corner as Kent prodded away with nagging accuracy.
Nothing too stunning, mind. The only hat-trick here was the award of county caps to Carl Hooper, Mark Ealham and Martin McCague but, by the fall of the sixth wicket, Alan Igglesden had claimed his third victim and Graham Kersey had made three catches behind the stumps in place of the injured Steve Marsh.
Hampshire, meanwhile, had been hit hard through the absence of their Test men and Paul Terry, who had scored a century at Worcester, but, like Marsh, has a back problem. Much, then, depended on a few.
Tony Middleton grafted three hours for his half-century, the 11th time this season that the opener has scored in excess of 50. The dashing Julian Wood livened things up with six fours in his 44, Igglesden ending the fun after the left-hander and Middleton had put on 75 for the third wicket. The heaviest contribution came from Mark Nicholas with a responsible 59, but getting up to three runs an over proved beyond Hampshire.Reuse content