JAMES Vince’s outstanding third century of the season has put Hampshire into a commanding position against Essex at The Ageas Bowl.
Vince’s unbeaten 154 from only 148 balls meant Hampshire closed the second day of their LV County Championship match against Essex on 264-2, a lead of 429 after bowling the visitors out for just 121.
Kyle Abbott excelled with the ball during his opening spell (6-2-15-3) before finishing with 5-44 as Hampshire secured a first-innings lead of 165.
But the performance of the day was still to come.
Hampshire fans should make the most of Vince now as England will soon find it impossible to ignore his quality.
He was not as disciplined early on as he was in scoring his two April hundreds, but that was down to his eagerness to bat Essex into submission after Hampshire decided not to enforce the follow on.
Hampshire were 24-2 when Vince began his latest masterclass, following the early loss of Michael Carberry and Jimmy Adams.
Vince was irrepressible, particularly off the back foot, but it was with his gorgeous cover drive that he stroked the 11th of his 21 fours to bring up his fifty from 53 balls against Tymal Mills.
Thereafter, he scored at faster than a run-a-ball, returning to the top of the LV County Championship run charts in doing so.
Vince now has 960 Championship runs this season and is likely to become the summer’s first player to 1,000 at some point this morning.
He has a good foil in Will Smith, who faced 153 balls for his 78 (six fours).
As well as being twice the visitors' total, their unbroken partnership of 240 in 48 overs has smashed a 116 year-old Hampshire record for the third wicket against Essex.
Essex are already under considerable scoreboard pressure but with Vince eyeing a maiden double hundred and Smith in sight of his first Hampshire century, a bad situation is only likely to get worse for them.
With the forecast set fair, time is on Hampshire's side and the strength of their formidable attack has been renewed by the decision not to enforce the follow on.
Once again, Abbott was to the fore as Hampshire dominated the first session. His extra pace made the most of the newly-laid wicket.
After resuming on 55-2, Essex lost three key wickets in seven Abbott deliveries with the score on 69.
A diving Matt Coles saw off James Foster at backward point, Jesse Ryder nicked to Smith at second slip and Ben Foakes was bowled pushing forward to the second ball of Abbott’s next over.
Coles and James Tomlinson then took four wickets in 19 balls.
Ryan Ten Doeschate (10) slashed Coles’ fourth delivery to second-slip Vince, who held on to a high chance after Tomlinson pinned rookie opener Nick Browne for a career-best 31 with one that kept low.
Then Adam Wheater pouched a catch at short-leg and Abbott returned to claim a deserved first five-for since his debut against Gloucestershire two months ago.