DICKIE BIRD is a lachrymose character at the best of times, and yesterday the Yorkshire president had plenty of reason to shed a few tears.
The death of Brian Close, his former team-mate, cast a dark shadow over events, with the news reaching Bird and the Yorkshire team at the Ageas Bowl just before the toss.
After Andrew Gale won that toss and chose to bowl, the Yorkshire players emerged from the pavilion wearing black armbands.
“He was an inspiration,” reflected Gale, who hopes to become the first captain next summer to lead a team to a hat-trick of Championships since Close himself in the late Sixties.
Yorkshire clinched their second successive title last week on the opening day against Middlesex at Lord’s.
Their subsequent capitulation to a 246-run defeat – their first defeat of the season in the tournament, and only their fourth in 64 games dating back to August 2011 – was perhaps not unexpected after such a great high.
But Gale made it very clear afterwards that “that is not the way we play our cricket”, and he reiterated Yorkshire’s desire to end the season with record points.
They went into this match needing another 12 for the First Division record and 21 for the overall record, with 48 points still up for grabs.
On a day on which 18 overs were lost to rain, Yorkshire captured one bowling point as Hampshire made 219-4.
It was a good effort by the hosts, who urgently need points for a different reason as they battle to avoid relegation.
The pitch at the start was emerald green, with plenty of cloud cover to encourage the bowlers, but the surface perhaps played better than expected.
The platform is there for a competitive score after a hard-fought day of attritional action.
After the start was delayed by 30 minutes, openers Michael Carberry and Jimmy Adams batted throughout the morning to take Hampshire to 55-0 at lunch.
Yorkshire’s bowling was not at its absolute best, although 17-year-old Matthew Fisher was in excellent form as he replaced the rested Ryan Sidebottom.
Yorkshire found their collective mojo after the break as three wickets fell in 16 overs.
Carberry feathered a good delivery from Jack Brooks to wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd, ending an opening stand of 74 in 29 overs.
Tim Bresnan bowled James Vince, the Hampshire captain, who played an inappropriately airy drive, and Hampshire slipped to 109-3 when Steve Patterson had Jimmy Adams caught at first slip by a tumbling Alex Lees.
But Hampshire hit back through Will Smith and Liam Dawson, who added 72 in 25 overs before Brooks strangled Smith down the leg-side.
In his previous over, Brooks appeared to have Dawson caught behind on the off-side only for the umpire to disagree.
Sean Ervine arrived to inject impetus, striking 26 from 25 balls, including a couple of cover-driven fours off Brooks, while Dawson was within sight of a half-century when rain brought about a premature conclusion.