PUBLISHED: 18:43 28 September 2017
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Hampshire produced a gritty rearguard action against Warwickshire to secure a draw which preserved their Specsavers County Championship Division One status and sent down 2016 champions Middlesex.
With Middlesex losing heavily to fellow strugglers Somerset earlier in the day, Hampshire knew if they avoided defeat at Edgbaston they would escape the drop in dramatic fashion for the second successive campaign - having last year been reprieved by Durham’s demotion for financial problem.
And it was Middlesex who plummeted to Division Two this time, alongside Warwickshire, after Hampshire survived a couple of major scares, at 72-4 and 124-6, to reach the close on 195-7.
After the loss of the first hour due to a wet outfield, the visitors never showed any interest in chasing a victory target of 259 and when a flurry of wickets straight after lunch left them four down, nerves were jangling.
But James Vince made an obdurate 30 in more than two and a half hours, and he will now fly out with England for the Ashes with top-flight cricket to look forward to again next season after Ian Holland and Gareth Berg calmly added 61 in 19 overs to keep the Bears at bay.
Hampshire resumed on the final morning on 20-1 and, after a truncated morning session, reached lunch without further loss as Tom Alsop and Sean Ervine took the score to 64.
But they hit serious trouble at the start of the afternoon session with the loss of three wickets for four runs in 16 balls.
Ervine edged Ryan Sidebottom behind for 26, then Jeetan Patel had Alsop taken at slip for 22 before captain George Bailey fell lbw attempting a reverse-sweep to the second ball he faced.
Suddenly, Hampshire’s Division One status was looking precarious, but Vince and Liam Dawson knuckled down diligently.
Vince started positively then retreated into total defence while Dawson started in total defence and remained there.
At one stage seven overs passed without a run off the bat but the fifth-wicket pair hoovered up a vital 30.3 overs - in which came 41 runs - before Dawson, having scored nine runs in 109 minutes, edged the impressive Sidebottom behind to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose.
That left Hampshire 113-5 with a minimum of 32 overs remaining and they suffered another wobble when Vince nicked a superb ball from Sidebottom.
But, to Middlesex’s dismay, that was pretty much as far as Warwickshire got as Holland (21 not out off 90 balls) and Berg (34 off 66 balls) kept their nerve amid a posse of close fielders to see their side to safety.