Hampshire’s remarkable season looks unlikely to include promotion in the LV County Championship.
After struggling with the ball on the second day of their Championship match against Essex at The Ageas Bowl, Hampshire’s hopes of adding an immediate return to the first division to their limited-overs success are very slim.
Former England star Owais Shah hit an unbeaten 124 (180 balls) as Hampshire failed to capitalise on their 49-run first-innings lead.
Essex closed the second day on 217-2 - a lead of 168 - after bowling Hampshire out for 229 yesterday morning.
Hampshire’s day was worsened by the fact that Yorkshire and Kent, who began the penultimate round of games just ahead of them in the race for second place, are on course to win their respective matches.
Having resumed on 165-4, Hampshire added just 64 before they were all out before lunch.
Reece Topley, a tall, rangy left-armer and still only 18, was the destroyer-in-chief, taking 3-10 in 23 balls from the Pavilion End.
But Hampshire did not help themselves.
The tone was set in the first over, when James Vince was caught behind for 26, punished for looseness outside off stump.
Bilal Shafayat (42) had not added to his overnight total when he nicked a loose drive to gully in Topley’s next over.
Hampshire had only just edged ahead of Essex’s first-innings 180 when Michael Bates and David Balcombe were trapped lbw in successive overs from Topley (3-59) and Maurice Chambers (3-61).
Only Sean Ervine (43) and James Tomlinson (9no) showed any gumption, putting on 43 in 13 overs.
Essex spread their field for Ervine during his 63-ball knock. Attempting to clear the rope, he finally holed out to deep square before David Griffiths was bowled in the following over.
The visitors were still 30 behind when Balcombe claimed his fifth wicket of the match, Tom Westley nicking to Liam Dawson at second slip, shortly after lunch.
But Hampshire’s next breakthrough did not come for another 59 overs. The fluent Shah had the perfect foil in the stoic Jaik Micklebugh (73 from 206 balls).
The pair capitalised as the wicket flattened out in the sun, putting on 193 before Mickleburgh was well caught by Dawson at slip when he nicked an attempted drive against Simon Katich’s Chinamen with four overs of the day remaining.