Hampshire captain James Vince and Sean Ervine both hit centuries at Headingley to leave a Yorkshire victory no mere formality in their opening game of the season.
When Hampshire began the third day on 141 for five they were still 452 runs adrift on the first innings but the Specsavers County Championship title-holders were only able to pick up three scalps in the three sessions and the visitors closed on 450 for eight, having just avoided the prospect of following on.
Vince, 76 overnight to Ervine’s seven, made his way in some style to 119 before he left a ball from Steven Patterson which cut back and trapped him lbw.
He faced 221 balls, stroking 16 boundaries, and his progress on both days was closely monitored by national selector, James Whitaker.
Vince’s stand with Ervine had added 75 in 26 overs and when Ervine was on 20 he was struck painfully on the left hand by a rising ball from Liam Plunkett which caused him to have several minutes of on-the-field treatment before he was able to continue.
Although in some discomfort, Ervine survived a barrage of short stuff from Plunkett, his most anxious moment coming soon afterwards when Andrew Gale just failed to reach a chance at short leg.
If the Zimbabwean was suffering it only seemed to add to his resolve as he and Adam Wheater tamed a Yorkshire attack which is the envy of other counties. They were able to deny Yorkshire a third bowling bonus point and at the same time feel some satisfaction at securing three batting points for their own side.
Ervine stood on 49 at lunch and 99 at the tea interval with Yorkshire desperate enough to turn to Adam Lyth and Gary Ballance for a few overs before the second break. Ervine pulled Ballance for six but had to wait a while for his 18th first class century which came with a delicate cut to the boundary off Patterson. He had faced 205 balls and struck 12 fours and a six.
Wheater’s no-frills half-century arrived off 126 balls with eight boundaries but when he had helped add 143 for the seventh wicket he carted Patterson to Ballance at mid-wicket and departed for 62.
Alex Lees at cover failed to make a hard chance stick when Ervine was on 107 and the batsman finally fell for 123, edging Sidebottom to wicketkeeper, Jonny Bairstow. It was Sidebottom’s 1000th wicket in all forms of professional first team cricket and Ervine left the field to a generous ovation.
At 391 for eight, Hampshire were still not prepared to throw wickets away and Ryan McLaren and Chris Wood not only held firm but also scored freely together. With one over remaining, McLaren went to his 50 off 77 balls with eight fours, the same shot also making sure the follow-on was avoided.
McLaren was 53 at the close and Wood 28 with Yorkshire far less sure of victory than they were at the start of the day.
Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie was full of praise for Hampshire’s batting performance.
“I must give Hampshire a lot of credit for the way they played,” he said.
“It will be a lot tougher for us now that they have saved the follow-on and it has made a result a little bit more difficult. First and foremost we have to get these last two wickets and then see where we are later in the day.
“I thought Vince played very well and all credit to Ervine for gutsing it out. Vince is a quality player and both his driving and the way he left the ball was very good.”
Ervine said the injury had caused a cut to his left index finger and he suspected that it may be cracked. He will have an X-ray on his return to Southampton.