Hampshire were replaced by Surrey in the LV County Championship’s top two as they lost ground in what is becoming a fascinating battle for promotion.
The promotion battle is certainly more interesting than the third day of Hampshire’s latest Championship match, which saw Gloucestershire progress from 94-1 to 446-5 at The Ageas Bowl – a first-innings lead of 149.
Meanwhile, Surrey secured their third big win in four games, a sequence only broken by Hampshire’s draw at The Oval last week.
Surrey’s nine-wicket victory against Glamorgan means they are second, having played a game more than Hampshire, who will go level on points with the pre-season favourites assuming they escape with a draw.
That is the best Hampshire can hope for after only managing to take four wickets all day.
In his last game before joining his South Africa teammates in Sri Lanka, Kyle Abbott is going through his first dip in form for Hampshire, but the attack was not helped by a flat, slow wicket.
Danny Briggs took the only wicket to fall in the morning session, trapping Gloucestershire captain Alex Gidman lbw attempting a reverse sweep.
Will Tavare (86), a centurion against Hampshire on his Championship debut in the first game of the season, has now scored two of his three highest career scores against Jimmy Adams’ side.
But Hampshire bowled too short early on.
Tavare was allowed to hit most of his 15 fours behind square on the offside before chipping Sean Ervine to cover, while Hamish Marshall cut six of his eight boundaries on his way to 56 either side of lunch.
Marshall reached his fifty with a five, after a single against Briggs went for overthrows, before playing on against Ervine.
At that stage, Gloucestershire were 254-4 but any hope Hampshire had of limiting the visitors to a negligible first-innings lead was extinguished by a fifth-wicket stand of 161 between Ian Cockbain and Will Gidman, who finished unbeaten on 109 (168 balls, 13 fours).
They batted Hampshire out of the game to the extent that Joe Gatting was given his first bowl at the Ageas Bowl, having recovered from the Will Gidman pull shot that broke his helmet while he fielded at short leg.
When Ian Cockbain (61) pulled Tomlinson to deep square-leg, Gidman was joined by Benny Howell, the former Hampshire batsman, who no doubt enjoyed coming out to bat with his side in such a dominant position.
Hampshire coach Dale Benkenstein said: “We didn’t bowl well with the new ball and from then on it was hard work.
“I wasn’t that happy before lunch but after that we stuck at it and did what we could in pretty trying conditions, which was pleasing.
“Kyle wasn’t firing but Ervine bowled some good spells and Balcs came back by bowling some really good spells.
“I thought they might take the option of having a go at us before the close but it’s still going to take a big effort to get ourselves out of trouble.
“We’re definitely under pressure and even though the wicket looks flat their tails are up. They’ve got a chance of winning the game so we’ve got to make sure we’re in a position where they feel they can’t.”