|LV= County Championship Division One, Edgbaston (Day Three)|
|Warwickshire 272-4 Dec: Yates 104, Sibley 54, Grove 44; Holland 3-85 & 62-2: Sibley 29*|
|Hampshire 311: Vince 98, Barker 76; Norwell 4-38, Brookes 3-102|
|Warwickshire (5 pts) leads Hampshire (4 pts) with 23 runs with eight wickets|
Old Warwickshire lad Keith Barker dashed the Bears’ hopes of miraculously dodging the Division One drop when he and Hampshire skipper James Vince both scored half a century at Edgbaston.
At 92-5 and still 180 down, Hampshire bounced back to 311 – a slim margin from 39 in the first innings.
But the hosts finished 62-2 to give themselves a chance to stay up.
Thank you Yorkshire 18-run loss to Gloucestershire, The Bears can avoid relegation if they beat Hampshire.
But they’re just 23 clear and need to hope they can set a sufficiently attractive victory target on Thursday’s final day to convince Hampshire to pursue it.
And Hampshire could use some convincing because if they see this game with a tie they’ll have the honor of finishing second, relegating Lancashire to third and earning a little extra prize money.
At least Warwickshire, district champions in 2021, have given themselves a chance to avoid becoming the first team since Middlesex in 2017 to be relegated just a year after finishing first.
After the 19 balls they faced the night before, Hampshire went on 4-0 and looked in a point of trouble as three morning wickets for the returning fit Liam Norwell helped reduce the visitors to 92-5.
But Vince and Barker then turned things around as they proved the Hampshire Architects’ narrow first-innings lead.
Nye Donald (36) helped Vince reach 75 on both sides of lunch before the Hampshire skipper added another 63 with Barker until he was caught behind off-spinner Danny Briggs.
And Barker then put on another 71 for the eighth wicket with James Fuller (26). But he’s still popular in these areas – and he was welcomed as warmly as any guest player turned 50.
When he holed out at midwicket to become a third victim for Henry Brookes, the innings were over just 21 balls and 10 runs later when Norwell won the final scalp, for only his second four-wicket play of an injury-plagued season.
With an additional eight overs potentially added if the light holds – to make up for time lost in the first two days – the Bears were left with 24 overs to give themselves an overnight lead.
First-innings centurion Rob Yates made 15 before becoming a 50th wicket for Mohammad Abbas in the championship this season.
That tallied with teammates Barker, 52, and injured Kyle Abbott, 58 — the first time since Cardigan Connor, Shaun Udal and Heath Streak in 1995 that three Hampshire bowlers have claimed all 50 scalps in a season.
Five balls later, night watchman Henry Brookes was also knocked out cheaply, but after that they went on for six and a half more overs, in which undivided Dom Sibley (29) and Alex Davies (15) scored free.
But the light went fast as they were ready to use up those final eight overs to set up what could be a tense final day.
Warwickshire fast bowler Liam Norwell told BBC Radio WM:
“We have a chance. It’s an outside chance, but it’s a chance and we’ll give everything we have.
“It’s a pretty typical Edgbaston field. The new ball has a bit of drag, but then it flattens out a bit. It’s just a good cricket wicket. If we have enough runs on the board to put a little pressure on them and then dangle the carrot, who knows?
“I’m as frustrated as anyone not to have played this season so it’s great to be back. I was happy with the way I bowled. I’ve found a certain rhythm but now there’s a big cricket day ahead and that’s all I’m thinking about.”
Hampshire all-rounder Keith Barker:
“We were lucky to get the extra point we needed. Now they have to do something with just three sessions left.
“You have to come out pretty positive to make a difference. We’ll just have to stay in the game and see what they come up with.
“It’s up to them to do something. We’re kind of a passenger. We can just sit and wait and see what they do. I’m sure they will come out with guns blazing are there when we get to batting so what happened last week doesn’t happen again and make sure we get at least a draw.
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