DOGGED defiance from Hamish Marshall has given Gloucestershire some hope of forcing what had looked an unlikely victory in their opening County Championship Division Two match of the summer.
The 35-year-old New Zealander showed magnificent powers of concentration and no-little amount of technical skill in defying a power-packed Hampshire bowling lineup yesterday.
More than nine years on from a sensational Test match 146 against the great Australians – Warne, McGrath and all – Marshall dug in for a gritty unbeaten 84 off 193 balls in a near five-hour vigil.
It gave Gloucestershire just a bit more than a glimmer of hope of forcing a draw, or even better from a game that at one stage just after tea on day three had looked all-but over.
When David Payne joined Marshall at the crease with the score at 216 for eight – the Gloucestershire lead was less than a hundred.
Fine bowling from new-ball pair James Tomlinson and Kyle Abbott, and some reliable backup from Matt Coles, Sean Ervine and Liam Dawson had put Hampshire in a position of great authority.
The day had started well for the hosts with Matt Taylor completing his maiden five-wicket haul when removing Adam Wheater (82) via a Payne catch to wrap up the Hampshire first innings in the second over of the day.
But the nagging and accurate left-arm swing of Tomlinson accounted for the Gloucestershire top order in quick-time as the hosts were left reeling at six for two.
Michael Klinger edged behind to Wheater in the third over of the second innings having made just one to give Tomlinson the perfect start.
Chris Dent then gave his wicket away four balls later, offering a flashing blade to a wide delivery and giving Michael Carberry a chance to demonstrate his acrobatics at backward point.
Coles then attacked first-innings hero Will Tavare from around the wicket and a full, straight delivery broke through his defences to send the debutant on his way leg before for 18.
Marshall then joined Alex Gidman at the crease and the experienced pair set about digging their side out of trouble.
Gidman offered one chance of Abbott when on eight, and looked well set before being caught at the wicket off Sean Ervine for 72.
The Zimbabwean was gifted his second wicket thanks to a poor shot from Will Gidman soon afterwards, the younger sibling playing on from an expansive-looking off drive.
South Africa Test man Abbott returned after tea to get the wicket his bowling deserved, swinging one past Cameron Herring's defences and clipping the pad in front.
Tom Smith (5) played all around one from fellow left-arm spinner Liam Dawson to be out leg before, while James Fuller was the victim of a stunning leg-gully catch by James Vince of Coles for a breezy 28.
But Marshall wouldn't be removed, grinding his way to 50 off 162 balls before counter-attacking in fine fashion alongside an unlikely ally in a swashbuckling Payne.
The pair added 92 for the ninth wicket, with Payne in particular displaying a fine array of shots before aiming one stroke too many to be caught at second slip off Vince for 44 off 68 balls.
That left Gloucestershire 308 for nine and with a lead of 190 going into what should be an intriguing final day.