Nicholas stranded as Warwickshire go for jugular

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Hampshire 225 Warwickshire 65-2

No one yesterday was banking on this one going the distance, not with Warwickshire's need for a win in defence of their Championship title, and given Hampshire's record in four-day cricket this season.

Sure enough, thoughts of returning on Monday appeared remote, as the locals groaned at the loss of three wickets without addition just before the end of the second session.

''Typical,'' muttered one when a ridiculous run-out presented Warwickshire with their third victim in five deliveries. You could understand the frustration. Hampshire had begun in the knowledge that seven out of their dozen county encounters had failed to make it into a fourth day and while, to be fair, there had been three victories to ease the pain, the loss to the Young Australians was another embarrassment to add to the list.

Hence few surprises now in a well-worn script that included another useful performance from Mark Nicholas, left stranded this time on 45 as the innings was wrapped up in 88 overs. And yet earlier things had looked promising, the captain winning the toss, a steady start and Warwickshire in theory due to wilt under a cloudless sky.

Not a bit of it. Warwickshire, lying third before the start behind Middlesex and with a game in hand over the leaders, Northamptonshire, at first bided their time and then went for the jugular through a combination of persistence, pace and spin on a blameless wicket.

Paul Terry and Jason Laney had put on 48 without too much trouble when Terry, edging Tim Munton, gave Keith Piper the first of four catches behind the wicket and the keeper also celebrated a stumping when Kevan James gave Ashley Giles' slow left-arm the charge.

Laney made 42, John Stephenson and Matthew Keech both passed 30 and Nicholas and Heath Streak featured in a stand of 50 for the ninth wicket after Shaun Udal had been run out for a duck in a mix-up with his captain. This was the third wicket to go down on 174, James and Adrian Aymes having just given Giles the glimpse of a hat-trick.