Hampshire are on course to take another big step towards LV County Championship promotion – by denying Surrey victory at The Oval.
With Friday night’s T20 mauling still fresh in the memory, Hampshire showed great character to bounce back from another Jason Roy masterclass with a spirited fightback led by captain Jimmy Adams and Will Smith on the penultimate day of their latest four-day match.
The second-wicket pair frustrated third-placed Surrey by replying to a formidable first-innings total of 474-8 declared with a partnership of 129 as Hampshire made 167-3 in reply.
Hampshire are more than halfway to the 325 needed to avoid the follow-on and should certainly not lose the 17 wickets Surrey need for the maximum-points win that could take them above Adams’ side into the automatic promotion positions.
They began the penultimate day well when Kyle Abbott (1-82) struck with its first ball, trapping Roy lbw for a run-a-ball 114 after Surrey resumed on 382-5.
Having replaced Abbott at the Vauxhall End, Matt Coles took the other Surrey wickets to fall - Gary Wilson (82) lost his middle stump via an inside edge and Kevin O’Brien was caught at deep mid-wicket by young Brad Taylor – before Gareth Batty and Tim Linley added 44 from 45 balls to prompt the declaration.
Michael Carberry was caught behind when he chased a wide ball from the impressive Matthew Dunn in the eighth over of the reply, the third of the afternoon session.
But Adams and Smith showed great patience on a used wicket against a spin-dominated Surrey attack without the likes of Chris Tremlett and Stuart Meaker.
They had to contend with a high-class showing from veteran off-spinner Batty, who followed his unbeaten 27 with an excellent spell (24-10-35-2) on a slow, low wicket.
Batty was nearly rewarded with the wicket of Smith on 16 after Rory Burns got a hand to a difficult chance at short-leg on 16.
Smith was also put down on 22 by Roy at slip off slow left-armer Zafar Ansari, but showed great mental strength to put that behind him and still be there at stumps.
He and Adams batted together for 50 overs, with Hampshire’s captain reaching a 108-ball fifty by whipping Batty through mid-wicket for the fifth of his ten fours, before driving the next delivery for his sixth.
Adams, a veteran of Hampshire rearguards, finally succumbed when he was trapped lbw on the back foot for a three-hour 79 (172 balls).
James Vince went in similar fashion after putting on eight in ten overs with the stoic Smith, who faced 192 balls for his 61 as Hampshire closed the day 307 behind, but with seven first-innings wickets still in hand.