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Warwickshire stay on course for title as bowlers break down stubborn Hampshire resistance

Hampshire (324 & 43-3) trail Warwickshire (493) by 126 runs

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Warwickshire required patience and composure to get through a day of mounting tension and move to within touching distance of their seventh County Championship, exactly 100 years since they first won the competition.

The leaders ignored events at Taunton and overcame stubborn resistance from Liam Dawson, who became the second opening batsman to carry his bat against them in consecutive innings, to winkle out 13 wickets in the day on a pitch that offered them little assistance.

There were times when it appeared that Warwickshire might have had to take the scenic route to victory rather than the ‘Route One’ they preferred but another disciplined bowling performance enabled their captain, Jim Troughton, to enforce the follow on for the fifth time this season.

Hampshire, whose relegation was confirmed once they failed to obtain maximum batting points, showed less appetite for the fight in their second innings with Dawson unable to repeat his earlier defiance.

It was another solid day’s work from Warwickshire, whose unexpected success this season has been based around a strong team ethic in the absence of their England stars, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, who have not played since May.

On Wednesday, Chris Metters, a 20-year-old slow left-armer, was the pivotal figure. Last year Metters was playing Minor Counties cricket for Devon and he is still learning his trade as a spinner having switched from seam bowling only three years ago.

He is far from the finished article but Ashley Giles, Warwickshire’s director of cricket, believes there is scope for improvement and he likes Metters’ character and unflappable temperament.

He out-bowled Danny Briggs, the new England Twenty20 slow left armer, by taking three first innings wickets when Warwickshire needed them most and two more in three balls when Hampshire followed on.

Michael Carberry played back to the spinner’s fourth ball of the day and edged low to Rikki Clarke, who made another difficult catch look deceptively easy.

Metters then took two wickets in four deliveries to secure a second bowling point for Warwickshire which they needed to stay ahead of Lancashire. Sean Ervine holed out to deep midwicket aiming Metters over long on and Michael Bates was lbw playing back.

There was no hint of panic from Dawson, who batted for six hours and 10 minutes, but there was a lack of support at the other end with the exception of James Vince, who undid much of his hard work by pulling Clarke to deep square when he appeared well set.

Warwickshire held their catches, in sharp contrast to Hampshire, who put down five on the opening day, with Clarke pouching three more in the slips to take his season’s tally to 39, a record for an outfielder since two divisions were introduced in 2000.

Troughton’s intuitive bowling changes kept Hampshire in check and the only hint of panic from the leaders came when Dawson and Briggs scrambled 36 in a lively ninth-wicket partnership which took Hampshire to within 21 of saving the follow on.

But Briggs was run out by William Porterfield’s pinpoint throw from deep midwicket and James Tomlinson quickly followed when he edged Chris Wright to second slip.

There was still time for Tomlinson to bag a pair in the day as he pushed Metters to mid-off when he was sent in as nightwatchman after Jimmy Adams had been brilliantly snared at leg gully by Porterfield.

Dawson also failed to last the day when he succeeded only in fending a brute of a ball from Boyd Rankin to gully to trigger the loss of three wickets in four overs.

A championship title would be a notable achievement for Warwickshire, who were dismissed as relegation candidates by many pundits in April.

And there will be tears shed in the visitors’ dressing room on Thursday if they can complete their 10th win of the season and secure the title because Giles has already stated that he will dedicate the trophy to the memory of his coaching mentor, Neal Abberley, a club stalwart for almost 50 years, who died last month.

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