Tough day for Notts' Test-bound Ball at Hampshire
Hampshire fast bowler Ryan McLaren produced a wicked afternoon spell of 3-17 to put the hosts well on top against Nottinghamshire as Mansfield's Jake Ball toiled on day two of the Specsavers County Championship Division One clash.
The focus before play was on Ball, who had been selected for England’s second Test against Sri Lanka. He will join up with the squad today and will be replaced for the rest of this match.
But after an excellent day one, the seamer suffered a ragged wicketless spell – typified by a duo of wides, and was put into the shadows by the metronomic McLaren as Hampshire (270) led Notts (99-5) by 171 runs at stumps.
Notts bowler Harry Gurney said: “We’ve not finished the day in the ideal way but we still have some good players still to come in, Dan Christian is in next.
“Hopefully we will put on some partnerships today and get near parity and bowl well again second innings.
“We came out after lunch and the ball was nipping around. As a unit, for the period we were out there, we stuck to the task well – we kept them to two and a half an over and when you get those clusters of wickets keeping on top of the run rate pays its dividends.
“We will certainly miss Jake with the ball in the second innings. Brett (Hutton) is an all-rounder, which is a bonus in some ways.
“It is there for everyone to see that Bally is bowling well at the moment. It will be a loss and hopefully he will go up to Durham and get in the squad.”
South African McLaren struck for the first time with the first ball of his second spell, after replacing the zippy Tino Best from the Pavilion End.
It was inspirational captaincy as he drew an edge out of former Hampshire batsman Michael Lumb, who had been in fluent form, before Jimmy Adams leapt forward to hold on at first slip.
McLaren grabbed his second soon after when he managed to kiss the side of Brendan Taylor’s bat, completed with another good catch behind the stumps, this time from wicketkeeper Adam Wheater.
Taylor had lived a charmed life, as two balls before his dismissal he had just about scrambled a single as Best broke the stumps.
McLaren completed his trio of scalps by pushing Samit Patel onto his back foot and wafting away from his body, bringing another solid snatch from stand-in skipper Will Smith.
Even before his bowling heroics McLaren had been at the centre of attention, due to a stunning two-handed full length catch at gully to see off Steven Mullaney – just the third delivery of the innings.
Another quality piece of fielding followed as Michael Carberry picked up and threw at one stump to run out Jake Libby, completed by a self-assured pose to celebrate.
An almost perfect day for the struggling county was tainted by Sean Ervine having to leave the pitch for treatment on his wrist – yet another notch on the injury list.
Earlier, Ball had wasted his chance to further prove to the selectors why it should be him, rather than Chris Woakes, who replaces Ben Stokes at Durham on Friday.
His dangerous swingers had been replaced by wides as Hampshire pulled towards a competitive total.
Tom Alsop, scorer of two 150s in the second XI last week against MMC Young Boys, notched his maiden Specsavers County Championship half century, from 82 balls.
He had put on an innings-saving 72 with Ervine before the Zimbabwean was clean bowled by Luke Fletcher.
Adam Wheater continued the revival, with a watchful 19, to add a stand of 43 but walked off after tickling an inside edge to Chris Read.
Alsop finally departed for a well-crafted mature 72 as Harry Gurney pinched the second of four tail-end wickets, caught behind by Chris Read. McLaren and Best soon joined him back in the dressing room.
But Mason Crane and James Tomlinson frustrated Notts with a 35-run 11th wicket stand, not filled with classic cricket shots, until the former skied straight up to Read.
Hampshire batsman Tom Alsop said: “It would have been nice to go on here at my home ground but hopefully as the game goes on the 72 will be worth a little bit more.
“I felt comfortable in the middle order. Growing up I have always been around the top six, but opening at the beginning of the season was a good experience.
“It was nice to come in later, put my feet up for a bit, but it was a nice place to bat.
“I do like opening as you are straight in and there is no waiting around for wickets but batting at six allows you to see the bowlers and see how the pitch is playing.
“First team cricket is difficult enough as it is, but putting your own mark on it and coming in with two 15s has given me a lot of confidence.
“It was challenging coming in with the ball still swinging but that is where opening early season has helped.
“We felt really good about our total. A few lads were saying 250 would be a good score on this deck. It offers a lot. It has a bit of up and down bounce.
“If you put it in the right areas there is a bit of invariable bounce. It does look like it might flatten out, but that might help Mason.”