Hampshire 410 (Brown 83, Dawson 61, Gubbins 58) and 198 for 8 (Dawson 67, Gubbins 42) beat Yorkshire 428 (Hill 131, Brook 76, Bess 51*, Wheal 4-59) and 178 (Wheal 3-32, Barker 3-48, Abbott 3-50) by two wickets
For Yorkshire’s Championship challenge to have lasted so long in this troubled season is something of an achievement, but realistically it ended at the Ageas Bowl, shortly before six o’clock on the final day, when Hampshire took a two-wicket win from a gripping final day.
Somehow, amid all the noises off, Yorkshire have been mounting a Championship challenge that few expected. At least they think they have been, because if they are docked points after the end of the season, once the ECB disciplinary commission determines its verdict, they might actually be fighting against relegation.
The Championship contenders are now realistically reduced to three – all of them winners in this round. Hampshire remain within three points of the leaders, Surrey, with Lancashire a further 16 points back in third. Yorkshire drop to fourth.
After victory in their opening match of the season, and five successive draws that have revealed the limitations of their bowling attack, Yorkshire finally experienced defeat. Their faith that they could force victory appeared to waver once the off-spinner, Dom Bess, who briefly appeared to be a potential matchwinner, was driven from the attack by Dawson, whose 67 from 68 balls rescued Hampshire from 103 for 6.
Dawson might have played on against Steve Patterson on 14, but he took the target below 50 when he drove Bess for six over long-on and, one bounce, into the hotel, then swept him for four next ball. In Bess’ defence, nobody knew better than Dawson that this final-day pitch, as scruffy as it looked, would not easily bestow its favours upon slow bowlers: Dawson himself had been wicketless in Yorkshire’s second innings. This surface produced an excellent match but, just for once, it would be nice to see a surface, somehow, somewhere, break up for the spinners.
“I feel like I’ve been in decent form all year without big scores and I’m really happy with that innings,” Dawson said. “I was in a bit of a daze, just watching the ball and reacting to it and luckily it paid off. It’s a brilliant comeback and it shows the character in the group. It is probably one of the best wins I’ve been involved in with Hampshire in four-day cricket.”
Considering that Hampshire are pushing so strongly for the Championship, their opening partnership of Felix Organ and Ian Holland fails to convince. Whether you consider their Championship averages this season, or over their career, the mid-20s is as high as it gets. In some ways, they might be representative of the shortage of quality opening batters across the entire professional circuit.
In the first innings, they were two-down for 12; on this occasion, two down for 23. Jordan Thompson, who did not set the tone with his first two balls, stiff-limbed efforts which Organ cut to the boundary, perked up to remove them both. Organ edged to third slip and Holland played around his front pad to be lbw.
Gubbins, though, has been at a more elevated level since his move from Middlesex. His run-a-ball 42 promised to ease Hampshire’s chase. Revis’ introduction as first change backfired as two overs leaked 18, Gubbins pulling him for six and four in successive balls.
Patterson restored order. That’s what Patterson does. You could imagine him calling Give Order like an MC at an old-style working men’s club, his common-sense cutting through the stale cigarette smoke. This season of all seasons, with players understandably unsettled over what the future holds, his attributes have been invaluable.
He had Gubbins lbw, striking him low on the thigh as he tried to sweep. James Vince then feathered Bess behind six balls later. Hampshire still 117 runs away from the target. When Lyth plucked out a slip catch above his head as Ben Brown lay back to cut Bess, and Patterson bowled Aneurin Donald through the gate, Yorkshire were favourites.
Dawson then cut loose, supported by Keith Barker who looked solid enough apart from on the pull. Two lobbed tauntingly over slips, Patterson and Thompson despairing, before a third pull, against Drakes, gave Harry Duke a catch down the leg side as Barker tried to move his hefty frame inside the line of the ball.
With seven down and 27 needed, Dawson was grateful for a couple of Thompson half-volleys. Revis had him caught, hooking, at long leg with the runs required down to eight, but a driven boundary by Kyle Abbott and, lo and behold, a ramp over the slips by James Fuller took Hampshire home.
“The difference in the end is the experience in their team,” said Ottis Gibson, Yorkshire’s coach, who is squeezing everything he can out of this Yorkshire attack.
Yorkshire were left with a long journey north. A quick update on the politics and then headphones in, trying to block out the noise, the only sensible way to survive the season.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps