Warne's parting shots give edge to Hampshire

Hampshire 355 & 192 Middlesex 272 & 168-4, Match abandoned at 73 mins

And after scoring the second hundred of his first-class career on Saturday, Warne tried his damnedest to help wrap up victory with his leg-spin and his fielding.

The irrepressible Aussie led by example, claiming the first wicket of the Middlesex second innings when he had Ben Hutton, his opposite number, caught at forward short leg in his second over.

And after tea Warne had the satisfaction of taking a sharp slip catch to dismiss Owais Shah off Shaun Udal, except that by then the Middlesex man had smacked 60 runs in even time.

Shah's time in the middle had presented the home guard with a pleasant hour in which his 56-ball blitz blazed his side a lot closer to their victory target of 276.

And because the Middlesex upper batting order rather resembles a Hydra - when one in-form batsman is cut down there are always more ready to emerge from the pavilion - there was barely a ripple of consternation in the Middlesex camp.

All this time the opener Ed Smith had got his head down and had plugged away in his understated way, so when he was joined by the run-rich Ed Joyce it still looked unpromising for Warne and his men.

But just when it looked as if the new partnership was going to produce big runs Smith tried to force Udal to leg and was bowled. He too had made 60, although in a more prudent two and a quarter hours.

It being a Sunday the bells of the nearby Christ Church had begun pealing, almost as stridently as some of the two teams' appeals during this match. To Middlesex ears they must have sounded more like the bells of hell, because Scott Styris quickly followed Smith back to the pavilion, caught off Greg Lamb, in the off-spinner's opening over.

It left Joyce and the nightwatchman Alan Richardson to negotiate a sticky passage to the close at which point Middlesex were 108 runs off their target, and the match is looking finely poised.

Earlier, Hampshire's second innings had lost its way when their remaining nine wickets added 161 runs, with Lamb's half-century and a punchy contribution from Dimitri Mascarenhas the only saving graces.

But Warne would have taken heart from the fact that seven wickets fell to the spin of Jamie Dalrymple and the impressive Chris Peploe, who uses his height, 6ft 4in, to good effect to launch his left-arm spin.

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