The flame of optimism ignited by Hampshire's showing last week against the champions, Sussex, was all but snuffed out by Yorkshire yesterday. When bad light drove the players off with 14 overs left in a rain-interrupted day, Hampshire were 103 runs away from making their hosts bat again.
Hampshire's batsmen failed to contain a Yorkshire attack that exploited swing early on and a seaming pitch later in the day and the visitors had to follow-on woefully shy of their opponents' first-innings total.
Things are unlikely to improve in the near future. Barring help from the weather or a miracle, defeat is almost inevitable at some point today. Then, tomorrow, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Hampshire's captain and all-rounder, leaves for a fortnight's work with the Indian Premier League's Rajasthan Royals.
Still, things cannot get much worse than they were here, when had it not been for a gritty innings from the opener Michael Brown, in between rain-enforced stoppages and under darkening skies, the Hampshire second innings might well have folded as well.
As it was, the cream of Hampshire's batting found itself back in the dressing room with just 84 runs knocked off the first-innings deficit of 239. It was not Matthew Hoggard, the architect of Hampshire's first-innings demise, who started the rot. The magic that Hoggard had conjured up first time around was passed instead to Tim Bresnan, who whipped out Michael Carberry and Jimmy Adams in the space of 10 balls.
Yorkshire's stand-in captain, Anthony McGrath, weighed in with the wickets of John Crawley and the former Yorkshire batsman Michael Lumb, and Hampshire's chances of avoiding a crushing defeat looked slim. But an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 52 between Nic Pothas and Brown at least took the match into its final day. Whether the pair can achieve anything more remains to be seen. Brown will need to add greatly to his three-hour vigil of yesterday and Pothas must be the rock he has often been in tight spots.
Things began to go wrong from the first ball of the day, which was delivered by Hoggard. Hampshire had resumed their first innings on 115 for 5, still 283 runs behind. Pothas immediately became the day's first victim, edging Hoggard's opening ball to first slip, where Jacques Rudolph somehow held on to an awkward catch.
Although the England bowler was not destined to take any more wickets, he had done enough. The wicket of Pothas gave the England pace bowler figures of 6 for 57, his best return in the championship since he took 7 for 49 against Somerset at this venue in 2003.
The remaining batsmen returned to the dressing room at regular intervals, including Mascarenhas, who shared in a stand of 23 for the eighth wicket with James Tomlinson.Reuse content