Hampshire 405 Warwickshire 160-5: Crawley creeps along to put Hampshire in driving seat

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The Independent Online

It was on this ground last year that Shane Warne's captain infamously asked the opposition to bat first.

Ricky Ponting's invitation to England had consequences for an entire Ashes series. Heath Streak will not stand accused of anything quite so momentous but as Warne's Hampshire exerted a stranglehold on this match last night, the Warwickshire captain was still counting the cost of making the same decision on Tuesday morning.

Streak's bowlers did better for him yesterday but from an overnight platform of 280 for 4, Hampshire pushed on past 400 anyway. Alex Loudon, Warwickshire's off-spinning all-rounder, did his ambitions no harm with a long and consistently accurate stint that eventually yielded five for 109. Dougie Brown, the veteran seamer, offered typically honest labour and made the ball do more than anyone. Four wickets was a just reward.

It might have been different had they been able to shift John Crawley. Seldom is that an easy assignment, however, and on this occasion, under the weather and dosed with anti-biotics, the former England batsman was in no mood for frivolity.

Studiously declining even a hint of risk, Crawley embedded the anchor from the outset, adding one solitary boundary to the clutch of fours he had brought with him overnight. When eventually Loudon had an lbw appeal upheld, Crawley had been batting for five and a half hours and had almost built a century in safe singles.

More importantly, Hampshire were well on top. After Nic Pothas had reinforced that position with an unbeaten 67, Warwickshire faced the prospect of needing 256 to avoid the follow-on and, so far, have not delivered convincing evidence that they can do so.

Hampshire's attack has looked altogether more threatening and Warwickshire's batting largely fragile. Nick Knight, caught at first slip, sold himself too cheaply to James Bruce, who dismissed Jonathan Trott without scoring, while Dmitri Mascarenhas, always a handful, produced two fine deliveries to account for Ian Westwood and then Loudon.

Michael Powell's top-edged sweep gave Warne his first success, celebrated with noisy enthusiasm by the Australian. Jim Troughton, not out on 75, has reaped the benefit of proper application but Streak is still feeling uncomfortable.

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