High up in the Arlott Atrium there is one of the best views in county cricket. We look straight down the pitch and when we lift our heads the vista extends through almost 360 degrees.
Hampshire’s members, though, have no time for such aesthetics. For them there is a nip in the autumn air and the height merely intensifies the feeling of vertigo. At the start of play they needed a 22-point win to be sure of retaining their Division One status, although after Warwickshire had been dismissed cheaply at Edgbaston they knew that a heavy-scoring draw against Durham might be enough.
They have started well, for they look on course for a maximum five batting points after closing the first day on 370 for six. So they need only 30 more from 13 overs. What’s a lot more, this could be a match-winning score on a wicket which is already turning as terminally as a coffin screw, although Paul Collingwood, the Durham captain, thinks it will not spin much more than this.
Durham, who could be forgiven a certain demob happiness following their recent victory over Surrey which confirmed their own survival, bowled three spinners as well as four seamers yesterday – and Collingwood did not even give himself a go.
It was a fine day’s cricket because Hampshire in general and James Vince in particular batted most positively against the turning ball. Jimmy Adams and Will Smith set them on their way with a stand of 111 in 29 overs.
The only wicket to fall before lunch was that of Adams, who chopped on as he attempted to cut Steve Borthwick. Immediately after the interval, Tom Alsop was lbw to the off-spinner Ryan Pringle and the vertigo got a little worse in the atrium.
But then Vince, in an innings of dash and courage, took the game to the spinners. That trademark drive through the covers was at its best as he hit both Pringle and the leg‑spinner Borthwick for four. Then, in the same over, he swept Pringle to square‑leg for four before lofting him over mid-on for six.
Smith was no slouch, but he was overshadowed. And then he was out, for 90, driving sloppily at Brydon Carse and giving a catch to Pringle at point; 218 for three. At tea Hampshire were already on 267 for three, with Vince on 89.
There was disappointment for the locals, however, when his wicket was thrown away just after the break. Sean Ervine played into the covers and called for a single which simply did not exist. Ben Stokes’s strong throw was not a direct hit but it gave the keeper plenty of time to gather and break the wicket.
Then Ervine, who had just completed his fifth 50 in six knocks, backed away to thump Pringle through the covers. But the ball turned and was a little fuller than Ervine expected and he edged to first slip.
After that Ryan McLaren was lbw to Pringle for 13 but Liam Dawson ensured the day belonged to Hampshire with an unbeaten 47.