Dane Paterson keeps visitors in the hunt as 16 wickets tumble at Southampton
Hampshire 226 and 133 for 7 (Vince 52, Paterson 3-16) lead Nottinghamshire 155 (Slater 55, Patterson-White 53, Barker 7-46) by 204 runs
Cricket is a game of bluff. Plans are made and traps are set. Demons in the pitch are invented and ghosts are often spotted. A slip cordon gasps in disbelief as a ball is left harmlessly past the stumps, a batter motions that the ball just nipped off the wicket when they’ve missed a straight one.
Ghosts and demons were everywhere today at Southampton. A pitch that was definitely still difficult to bat on, but not to the tune of the 16 wickets that fell across the day and that had seen Nottinghamshire bowled out for 155 and Hampshire finish 133 for 7 in reply
It would be easy to be wholly superlative about Barker’s performance. That he was unplayable, that he made the ball swing around corners and made it seam off the pitch at right-angles. But he didn’t.
His two spells were from a bowler who was stretching Nottinghamshire’s batters to their limits as opposed to taking them beyond them. Wearing them down and asking the same question over and over as opposed to blowing them away.
The ECB have recently been releasing highlights packages that are edited down to every ball in a Jimmy Anderson spell or every scoring shot of a Joe Root century. The same needs to be done here in order to truly appreciate Barker’s performance.
Bar the dismissal of Hameed that occurred late on day one, none of his wickets stood out as particularly exceptional deliveries. Duckett was caught down the legsside, Clarke popped one to mid-on, Mullaney and Moores found themselves caught on the crease and so on. The ball was never doing too much and it was never doing too little, but it was always doing just enough. Keith Barker, season to taste.
The first three dismissals of the day would encapsulate what was to come. Duckett’s strangle down the legsside could be interpreted as misfortune, Clarke appeared to be the victim of a ball that stopped on him and Mullaney’s ball straightened slightly to trap him LBW. All three returning to the Notts dressing room with the message of, “don’t go out there, it’s haunted”.
But it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t great, but it was better than many had feared before play. In particular, the ball was swinging far less than anticipated. But cricket is a game played in the mind as much as in the middle, and Notts had manifested a fiction and turned it into the truth to end up all-out for 155.
So with just six overs remaining in the day and serenity seemingly back in store, Hampshire looked set to close out the day as favourites. That is, until Luke Fletcher bowled Vince with a delivery that jagged viciously back through the gate. And then Patterson-White found some turn to dismiss Felix Organ shortly after. Serenity had been abandoned, the demons were back and day two finished with the match in the balance. Anyone else scared?
Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby