Nottinghamshire only had themselves to blame as they found their batting fluency far too late to prevent a heavy 116-run defeat to Hampshire.
The contest’s third day at Trent Bridge saw Tom Moores make 81 and Joe Clarke 67 on a pitch that had evidently become easier to bat on, yet Nottinghamshire never really had a chance of chasing their 411-run target.
The huge target required Notts to hit the third-highest fourth innings chase in their history, behind only the 419 they made against Leicestershire in 1926 and the massive 461 they made at Worcestershire in 2001.
Despite the improbability of a win, hopes nonetheless lingered that Notts could at least push the game into a fourth day where rain may or may not have intervened.
An irresistible Hampshire seam attack, however, prevented this.
James Fuller’s opportune 4-59, combined with wickets for Mohammad Abbas (3-48) and Kyle Abbott (2-82) stalled Notts at all the right moments, with the bowlers maintaining their energy even in a final session stretched out to 44.3 overs.
This followed rain delays cutting short both the morning and afternoon sessions, with Hampshire beating the weather as much as the opposition to lift themselves to second in the Division One table.
A POSITIVE START
The full story of this match begins with an injury-hit Nottinghamshire – led by stand-in captain Haseeb Hameed – deciding to bowl first.
Having been made to wait by rain on the first morning, Nottinghamshire would have been delighted to win the toss, knowing a green-tinged pitch and gloomy overheads heavily favoured the bowlers.
The hosts’ elation soon cranked up a notch when opening bowlers Brett Hutton and debutant Toby Pettman began the match with respective wicket maidens.
While James Vince and Nick Gubbins rebuilt for Hampshire, neither survived the afternoon session.
Gubbins’ dismissal was a particular disappointment, succumbing in the final over before Tea on an agonising 49, pinned lbw by Lyndon James.
🎥A couple of wickets before the break
— Nottinghamshire CCC (@TrentBridge) July 19, 2023
James’ niggly seam movement continued to be effective in the final session, with Ben Brown and Liam Dawson falling to the all-rounder under dark skies.
James Fuller and Felix Organ combined for a pestering eighth-wicket partnership, however.
Batting at seven and nine, the all-rounders added 73 runs to the total to drag Hampshire to something respectable, and seemingly set up the game for a low-scoring shootout.
Brett Hutton removed those two for figures of 3-40, while James got 3-38 and Dane Paterson 3-56, making the outlook much sunnier than the unseasonable mid-July weather for Notts.
By the end of Day 1, however, Hampshire wrestled back control.
Five cheap dismissals left Notts without the firm grip they wanted, but the worst part was that they were not from Hampshire’s star seamers, with opener Ian Holland’s medium pace instead claiming four victims.
Hameed was out nicking behind to Ben Brown before Joe Clarke, Matthew Montgomery and Ben Slater followed identically, showing little ability to manage the surface.
Will Young was bowled by Holland too, with the short-term overseas signing to ultimately be much less apparent in this match than during his 145-run knock on debut against Surrey.
THE QUICKEST OF FALLS
Though their top five had fallen, Nottinghamshire hoped that an overnight reflection would see the likes of Tom Moores and Lyndon James implement smarter innings to pass Hampshire’s 166.
They did not do that, instead subsiding to 100 all out in a hugely demoralising fashion.
Moores played poorly to a slower Kyle Abbott delivery in just the fourth over of the day, beginning a slide of four more dismissals for just five runs as Mohammad Abbas ran wild.
Had Toby Pettman not worked away a single in his debut innings, it would have been the third time a Division One side had made just two figures in their first innings in 2023.
Hampshire have been the architects of both previous lowly totals, ripping through Kent for 95 and Northamptonshire for just 56.
Without having to use James Fuller or spinner Liam Dawson on this occasion, they would be delighted with their morning’s work and were soon even happier as they saw the pitch improve on Day 2.
While Fletcha Middleton and Nick Gubbins both fell against the new ball, captain James Vince came in to guide his side to the safe haven of Lunch.
Sun finally poked out during the interval, with any lingering greenness in the pitch quickly drying up.
Hampshire had some early-afternoon wobbles, losing Vince and Ben Brown to be 89-4, but then skipped merrily on to 171-4, putting on 82 for the fifth wicket.
Notts saw their chances ebbing away at a rate of knots, with Ian Holland sticking around and Liam Dawson playing a chanceless innings alongside him.
Dawson did superbly to help Holland out and gather 82 runs, while James Fuller deservedly achieved the half-century he left behind in the first innings, making 52 not out.
The players are off for rain here in Nottingham.
— Hampshire Cricket (@hantscricket) July 20, 2023
A belligerent spell after Tea saw Holland make his first century of the season and finish on 138 not out when skipper Vince seized the chance to accelerate the game, declaring on 344-5.
Notts’ openers at least held out for the 12 remaining balls, meaning it had not been a total waste coming to work on Day 2.
OUT WITH A FIGHT
Home fans arrived at Trent Bridge more in hope than anticipation on Friday, with the requirement being that if their side were to lose, it should at least be with a fight.
Nottinghamshire ultimately fell well short, but they batted better than many thought and almost escaped the day to secure assistance from Saturday’s downpours.
Tom Moores, Joe Clarke and Calvin Harrison were the batsmen to emerge with the most credit, with an encouraging balance of patience and stroke-making from each.
Those three aside, however, performances remained under par.
Ben Slater was out in the second over of the day, bowled by Kyle Abbott, and Will Young followed him down the drain after scoring just eight runs.
Haseeb Hameed fell for 30 and Matthew Montgomery – who had a particularly anonymous match – departed for a duck, before Clarke and Moores finally brought some stability to the innings.
A 99-run stand brought Nottinghamshire to a respectable point halfway through the day, but Hampshire struck at the key moment, with Fuller bowling Clarke.
— LV= Insurance County Championship (@CountyChamp) July 21, 2023
Moores continued with Lyndon James and looked to be driving the match into a fourth day with his first half-century of the season, but Ian Holland clipped the top of his leg stump to end a fine innings on 81.
Harrison entered the action and made 39 from his 73 balls, but his ambitious rotation of the strike exposed partners James, Hutton and Pettman before he finally perished lbw to Mohammad Abbas.
Just 7.3 overs remained in the day, and as the rain delivered on Saturday, Notts may just have been thinking what might have been had Clarke or Moores received a little more fortune.
As it was, Notts gathered just three points from the match and now face an even bigger home match in round 12 of the County Championship, welcoming relegation rivals Kent in a fixture beginning on Tuesday, 25 July.
It is a game they can ill afford to lose considering Kent are just 13 points behind them, with big improvements needed.
A significant focus will be on the bat, and with Steven Mullaney, Luke Fletcher and Liam Patterson-White all candidates to return after pitchside appearances this week, changes cannot come soon enough for Nottinghamshire.
Feature Image Credit: Will Hugall.