HAMPSHIRE maintained pace in the LV= Insurance County Championship title race as they patiently secured an 87-run victory over Gloucestershire, writes Alex Smith.

Mohammad Abbas followed his first-innings six-wicket haul with three for 62 with Liam Dawson and James Fuller both grabbing two wickets apiece as they seized a final session victory.

George Scott and Miles Hammond’s half-centuries had given Gloucestershire hope of chasing down 368 and a first victory of the season, but the second new ball claimed four wickets to dent their dream.

Hampshire move to nine points behind early leaders Surrey after claiming a 21-point haul, while Gloucestershire escape the bottom three with their three bonus points.

Hampshire began the day needing eight wickets, Gloucestershire required another 257 runs in what would have been the second greatest chase in their history and a draw was not out the question either.

The morning session refused to suggest which way the result would be going. 70 runs were scored, with the required rate still manageably under three runs per over, with only a single wicket falling. That scalp was of George Scott, who danced down the track and picked out mid-on, for a personal best 77. Meanwhile, Hammond chalked up his third half-century in a third successive match in 150 mostly serene deliveries – the only worries in the session were the occasional play and misses.

This Ageas Bowl pitch had consistently assisted the new balls across the match, with nine wickets falling within the first 10 overs of it being taken. Hampshire were therefore looking forward to a second cherry soon after lunch, having been forced to persevere on a slow pitch. Thus, Ian Holland sending Graeme van Buuren’s middle stump for a tumble in the 77th over was an added bonus.

Three wickets did fall within 10 overs of James Vince unwrapping a shiny new ball, to swing the balance almost terminally towards Hampshire. Nine balls in and Hammond fell to Keith Barker, who missed a straight one and was pinned in front.

Abbas took his match tally to nine wickets with the quick-fire double of Tom Lace and Dom Goodman – the former clipped to midwicket while the latter tickled a delivery which moved in on the angle behind. Ryan Higgins scored 25 before his attempt at a cut screwed to Ben Brown’s gloves.

Last season, Gloucestershire had frustrated Hampshire with an epic block-a-thon on the final day to draw while nine down – with Goodman’s 48-ball nine saving the match. But there was to be no similar hold-up.

Mohammad Amir was superbly caught by Aneurin Donald running backwards from cover to dive and snaffle a skier and Ajeet Singh Dale was strangled down the leg side – both to Fuller – to end the highly entertaining contest with 25 overs to spare.

Hampshire: 342 and 204.

Gloucestershire: 179 and 280.