IT is seven years since Yorkshire last won three successive County Championship games, a sequence they are hoping to emulate this week.
Victories over Leicestershire at Scarborough and Gloucestershire at Bristol have ignited hopes of a promotion push, with Andrew Gale’s men joint-top of the Second Division going into this match.
A combination of resilient Hampshire batting and an indifferent weather forecast will test their ability to achieve a hat-trick, with the visitors scoring 352-5 on the opening day.
Simon Katich, who played one first-class game for Yorkshire in 2002, led the way with an unbeaten 180 after Hampshire won an important toss.
After achieving the second-highest run-chase in their history at Bristol, however, few would doubt Yorkshire’s ability to win from a challenging position.
Hundreds by Phil Jaques and Gary Ballance helped them to 402-6 in the south-west and a win as dazzlingly constructed as it was daringly conceived, with Gale having forfeited his side’s first innings to agree to a target of 400 from a minimum of 110 overs.
That gamble left no one in doubt that Yorkshire will always try to manufacture a result if possible, even if, as happened in Bristol, proceedings are seriously affected by the weather.
Not even the loss of the opening day, however, and almost half of day two dissuaded Yorkshire from seeking a victory that sent them into this match with confidence suitably sky-high.
After showing two changes to the side that defeated Gloucestershire, with Joe Root returning in place of Joe Sayers and Iain Wardlaw coming in for Tim Bresnan, Yorkshire made a splendid start.
Ryan Sidebottom struck with the 18th ball of the morning when he had Liam Dawson caught behind for a duck, Sidebottom’s 550th wicket on his 169th first-class appearance.
In the very next over, Steve Patterson, operating from the Kirkstall Lane end, trapped Hampshire captain Jimmy Adams lbw to leave the visitors reeling on 6-2.
Hampshire remained punch-drunk throughout the opening spells of Sidebottom and Patterson, which were 6-2-13-1 and 7-2-11-1 respectively.
The introduction of Anthony McGrath in place of Sidebottom relaxed the pressure somewhat as his first three overs cost 21.
In fairness to McGrath, the pleasant conditions, with sunshine making a rare appearance, did not really suit him, for he has impressed in the recent unsettled weather. Michael Carberry, back from Lions’ duty, drove the former England all-rounder sweetly to the cover boundary before driving his next ball fiercely through point for four.
In the blink of an eye the 50 was raised as Katich and Carberry began to look settled.
On his last appearance against Yorkshire last year, Carberry had scored an unbeaten 300, adding 523 for the third-wicket with Neil McKenzie on a Rose Bowl pitch flatter than the Lincolnshire Wolds.
He looked set for another good score before inexplicably throwing his bat at a wide one from Wardlaw, the ball smartly pouched by Ballance at first slip.
Wardlaw, who will be withdrawn from the action today if Bresnan is not needed by England for the first Test against the West Indies, almost had another wicket moments later when Katich, on 46, skied just beyond the reach of Patterson at mid-off.
As it was, Patterson struck the next blow when he had James Vince caught behind to leave Hampshire 83-4 on the stroke of lunch.
At that stage, Yorkshire had done extremely well considering the conditions, while Hampshire, who along with Yorkshire were many bookmakers’ favourites to win promotion, had looked every inch a side who had made a sluggish start to the season, winning only one of their opening six games.
But after lunch the complexion changed as batting conditions became even easier. Katich and Sean Ervine accumulated freely, although Ervine was lucky to escape on 22 when Jaques dropped him off Wardlaw at mid-off, which would have left Hampshire 161-5.
The pair added 124 in 29 overs before Ervine was out with the total on 207, caught by Patterson at deep mid-on off Root.
Katich, who had survived a strong lbw appeal from Patterson to his very first delivery, progressed serenely from 58 at lunch to a century achieved from 99 balls with 14 fours.
The left-hander was dropped twice – on 114 by Sidebottom at mid-on off Adil Rashid and on 144 when Rashid failed to cling on to a difficult return chance – but was largely in complete control.
Katich’s score was his highest in first-class cricket since he made 157 against the West Indies at Barbados in 2008 – an innings in which Jaques made 108 in what proved to be his final Test innings.
Katich found another willing ally in Michael Bates, a 21-year-old wicketkeeper with whom he added an unbeaten 145, Bates scoring a Championship-best 88 from 146 deliveries with 16 fours.