WHEN Hampshire last played at Colchester, they lost while their captain was doing his best to stop England winning one of the great Ashes Tests.

Shane Warne took 4-31 at Trent Bridge on August 28, 2005, a memorable performance ultimately in vain as England secured a dramatic three-wicket win to go 2-1 up in that epic series.

Today, they return to the Castle Park Cricket Ground for a crucial LV County Championship match without Kyle Abbott.

Hampshire lost by 12 runs when they last played Essex at Colchester nine years ago. It was a result that helped condemn the county to relegation from the first division of the 45-over totesport League.

Kickstarting their Championship promotion bid after four draws in five games is Hampshire’s goal this week.

The next four days will help determine the outcome of what is becoming a fascinating battle for a top-two finish.

Win and Essex are surely out of the promotion hunt but a defeat for Hampshire would bring their hosts into the race for a first division place.

Hampshire are still second after holding on for a draw against Gloucestershire on Thursday, but Surrey have narrowed the gap to a single point (albeit having played a game more) after beating Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay – the pre-season favourites’ third big win in four games.

Had Hampshire not drawn at The Oval the week before last they would be playing catch-up, but the good news is their destiny is in their own hands.

The bad news is they will be without Abbott, who flew to Sri Lanka on Thursday night for South Africa’s two-Test tour.

Abbott has not been at his best in the last two Championship games (1-157 from 47 overs), but his 36 wickets at 20.3 have gone a long way to putting Hampshire in the promotion hunt.

It will be fascinating to see how Hampshire cope without him.

To counter his absence, Hampshire have included Nathan Rimmington in a 12-man squad (see below), having ostensibly signed him for the limited-overs formats, and despite initial assurances to Cricket Australia that Glenn Maxwell would play when Abbott was unavailable.

Rimmington, 31, has only played 22 first-class matches in his career (61 wickets at 29.26) but his new-ball skills are expected to be more suited to English conditions than those in his native Australia.

James Tomlinson, who has taken 32 wickets at 26.1 this season, will take on more responsibility over the next four days.

“Everyone’s known we’ve been crying out for a leader of the attack for a good two or three years and Kyle’s been brilliant,” said the 32 year-old left-armer.

“He’s exactly what we’ve needed and everything we hoped for. My job in the team is so much clearer this year because we’ve got Kyle Abbott. I don’t feel under pressure to take wickets, I feel pressure to bowl well for Kyle Abbott.

“I don’t think that will change [at Colchester], it will be a case of bowling well as a team and trying to shut that scoreboard down, which is a very under rated thing.”

Liam Dawson and Matt Coles have been recalled in place of Joe Gatting and David Balcombe.

Dawson has recovered from the groin injury that has kept him out for nearly two months, while Coles was rested from this week’s game against Gloucestershire.

Hampshire coach Dale Benkenstein is hoping for an improvement in the four-day form of Coles, whose 21 Championship wickets have come at 31.6 apiece (the former Kent star secured a three-year contract with 21 at 24 during his loan spell at the end of last season).

“Coles has to lift his game a bit, but he’s now the new-ball bowler which might give him the lift that he needs,” said Benkenstein, before the surprise inclusion of Rimmington. “We definitely don’t have the quality without Kyle but it’s an opportunity to take that responsibility.”

After losing five successive tosses, and eight out of 11 overall this season, captain Jimmy Adams is hoping to start well by making the right call.

But recent history will not be on Hampshire’s side.

They have lost on five of their last six visits to the home of Colchester CC and suffered one of the biggest defeats in the club’s history when they last visited in the Championship in 1995.

Centuries from Graham Gooch, Nasser Hussain and Mark Waugh and an 11-wicket haul from Peter Such inflicted an innings-and-254-run defeat in one of Mark Nicholas’s last games as Hampshire’s captain.

Hampshire (from): Adams, Carberry, Smith, Vince, Dawson, Ervine, Wheater, Rimmington, Coles, Briggs, Tomlinson, Taylor.