IF plans to cut the number of County Championship games from 16 per season to 14 were already in place, Yorkshire’s campaign would now be over.
In some respects, that would not be a bad thing, given that they have already achieved their principal goal of retaining the title.
True, Yorkshire could yet obtain the record number of points since the move to two divisions in 2000; they went into this match needing a further 12 for the Division One record, and 21 for the overall record ahead of next week’s final game of the season against Sussex at Headingley.
But to all intents and purposes, the spark has gone from their summer because of their own sparkling cricket; the players would not be human if, after the inevitable euphoria of another title, thoughts did not drift – subconsciously at least – to a nice warm beach.
There has been nothing warm or beach-like at Southampton, where autumn is advancing with a vengeance.
Play was delayed for nearly two hours on day two after rain, and today’s forecast suggests that flippers – rather than flip-flops – will be de rigueur, with the Met Office having issued a Yellow warning.
Cricket in September is a hazardous affair, and it is just as well for Yorkshire that they are not chasing points for the title in the same way that Hampshire are chasing them to escape relegation.
If the weathermen are correct, the likeliest outcome now is a draw.
The main driving force may have gone from Yorkshire’s season, but they do not want to sign off with a whimper.
Defeat to Middlesex at Lord’s last week – their solitary reverse in this year’s tournament – could be attributed to the title having been clinched on the opening day, but they want to ensure that standards stay high.
They are playing a Hampshire team, however, who have run into form, and who are proving suitably tough opposition.
After scoring 400-9 declared in their first innings, the hosts have Yorkshire struggling at 82-4.
When play finally began yesterday at 12.20, there was a game within a game as Hampshire pursued maximum batting points.
Considering they needed to score 181 from 32 overs with six wickets left, they did well to get them – more so when that equation became 108 from 13 overs after lunch.
But after Liam Dawson and Sean Ervine batted throughout a truncated first session, with a third of the day lost to the elements, Hampshire scored at just under 10 an over after the break.
With wickets going down like ninepins too, it made for some blink-and-you-miss-it entertainment.
Ervine did not linger after lunch, adding just two more runs to depart for 43 when he came down the track to spinner James Middlebrook, seemed to get caught in two minds and was stumped.
Yorkshire benefited from Hampshire’s quest for quick runs, Jack Brooks having Adam Wheater – who had batted like a cat on a hot tin roof – taken at mid-wicket when he bobbed up a cleverly disguised slower delivery.
Hampshire slipped to 368-7 when Matthew Fisher had Ryan McLaren caught low down at mid-on by Jack Leaning from a full toss – probably the worst ball that Fisher bowled.
For the most part, the 17-year-old was outstanding, his potential growing clearer by the day.
Dawson went on to a superb 140, finally ended when he skied Middlebrook to short fine-leg, wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd running round to take the catch.
Dawson faced 212 balls and hit 18 of them to the boundary.
With time running out to get up to 400, Gareth Berg provided key acceleration when he hit each of Middlebrook’s next four balls to the rope.
Berg went on to an unbeaten 27 from nine balls, six of which he dispatched for four.
One ball after reaching 400, Hampshire lost their ninth wicket when Ryan Stevenson was caught behind off Fisher, which, in turn, gave Yorkshire maximum bowling points.
Adam Lyth’s day got no better after he was left out of England’s Test squad to play Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
The left-hander fell for a second-ball duck in the opening over of Yorkshire’s reply, flashing Fidel Edwards to third slip.
Gary Ballance – dropped on nine by Will Smith in the gully off Edwards – added 51 with Alex Lees before picking out square-leg.
Andrew Gale was caught behind off McLaren, who had Jack Leaning taken at first slip, but Lees and Tim Bresnan stood firm.