Day Four - Match Drawn
A gritty rearguard action did the job for Hampshire as they secured the requisite draw against Warwickshire to preserve their Specsavers County Championship Division One status.
Hampshire began the final day facing a simple equation: Defeat would send them down while a win or draw would make them safe and condemn Middlesex to Division Two along with Warwickshire.
And it was Middlesex who plummeted after Hampshire survived a couple of scares, at 68 for four and 124 for six, to reach the close on 195 for seven.
After the loss of the first hour due to a wet outfield, they never showed any interest in chasing a victory target of 259 and when a flurry of wickets straight after lunch sent them dipping to 68 for four, nerves were jangling.
But captain James Vince made an obdurate 30 in more than two and a half hours and will fly out with England for the Ashes with First Division championship 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 for one 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 postprandial trouble with the loss of three wickets for four runs in 16 balls.
Ervine edged Ryan Sidebottom behind, then Jeetan Patel had Alsop taken at slip before George Bailey essayed a reverse-sweep, a staggeringly inappropriate shot in the context of the game, and fell lbw.
Suddenly, Hampshire's First Division 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 to the wicketkeeper.
That left Hampshire 113 for five with a minimum of 32 overs remaining and they suffered another wobble when Vince (30, 124 balls, four fours) nicked a superb ball from Sidebottom. But, to Middlesex's dismay, that was as far as Warwickshire got as Holland (21 not out, 90 balls) and Berg (34, 66) kept their nerve amid a posse of close fielders to see their side to safety.
Hampshire face a tense final day of their Specsavers County Championship season after they closed the third day at Edgbaston on 20 for one, needing 259 to beat Warwickshire.
The equation for James Vince's side is simple. Victory or a draw against the already-relegated Bears would secure their First Division status but a defeat would mean they accompany their hosts down to Division Two.
When rain arrived to wipe out the final session of the third day, Hampshire had already lost Jimmy Adams on the way towards a tricky target which would have been a lot less tricky had they not conceded a tenth-wicket stand of 59 by Ian Bell (77 not out, 101 balls, nine fours, two sixes) and Ryan Sidebottom in Warwickshire's second innings.
It has been an extraordinary game with four sessions entirely washed out while the other five have brought 31 wickets. The final three sessions tomorrow will dictate the level at which Hampshire play their championship cricket in 2018.
Leading by 72 on first innings, Warwickshire resumed on the third morning on 0 for 0 and soon hit trouble. Liam Banks and Dominic Sibley edged Fidel Edwards and Ian Holland respectively before Gareth Berg took three wickets in 13 balls as Jonathan Trott nicked an outswinger, Matt Lamb fell lbw and Tim Ambrose edged to second slip.
Bell and Alex Thomson (24, 28 balls) added 30 but Thomson and Jeetan Patel fell to successive balls from Kyle Abbot either side of lunch. After Chris Wright was run out by George Bailey's direct hit and Edwards knocked out Olly Hannon-Dalby's middle-stump, it was 127 for nine.
Another wicket then and Hampshire would have chased 200. Instead, last man Sidebottom (13, 32 balls, three fours) batted diligently while Bell played some attractive strokes and the pair added 59 in 13 overs before Holland trapped Sidebottom lbw, leaving Bell unbeaten 23 short of his first century of the season.
Facing an awkward eight-over session before tea, Hampshire lost Adams who edged Hannon-Dalby to second slip. The match, and Hampshire's destiny, faced a pivotal evening session but the clouds closed in on the West Midlands and, down south, the cricket-lovers of Hedge End, Ampfield and Wellow battened down the hatches for a nervy night.
As, of course, did those in Stratfield Turgis.
Hampshire have plenty of work to do to avoid relegation after they dismissed Warwickshire for 188 but were then rattled out for 116 themselves on an extraordinary second day of their Specsavers County Championship match at Edgbaston.
A first-day washout was followed by a second-day wicketfest which left the visitors still vulnerable to the drop.
After choosing to bowl, Hampshire, requiring six points to secure their First Division status, took advantage of damp conditions to reduce the home side to 28 for five.
Dominic Sibley resisted hard to bat through the innings for 92 (168 balls, 12 fours, one six) but Fidel Edwards took two early wickets and added three more to tidy up the tail to end with five for 49.
Hampshire then starting their reply knowing events elsewhere meant they would be safe from relegation if they reached 300. But they were soon 13 for three and only captain George Bailey (55, 57 balls, ten fours) defied long against an attack led by Olly Hannon-Dalby (four for 29) and Jeetan Patel (three for 19).
When the game got underway a day late Hampshire's pacemen struck rapid blows, though the first damage to the Bears was self-inflicted when Liam Banks ran himself out, embarking upon an impossible single to mid-on. Kyle Abbot struck twice as Jonathan Trott edged into the slips and Ian Bell was bowled first ball, offering no shot, before Edwards bowled Matt Lamb and Tim Ambrose.
Sibley found two more durable partners in Alex Thomson (26, 95 balls) and Chris Wright (26, 34) with whom he added 80 and 39 respectively. When Wright edged Edwards, Sibley, sensing the end was near, lifted Liam Dawson for two fours and a six from successive balls but was left stranded when Edwards castled Hannon-Dalby and Ryan Sidebottom.
Hampshire's batsmen then found life even more difficult. Sidebottom trapped Tom Alsop in front and bowled Jimmy Adams while Wright pinned James Vince lbw.
Fast, full deliveries from Hannon-Dalby won lbw decisions against Sean Ervine, Ian Holland and Gareth Berg, Dawson lifted Patel to point and Bailey's skilful resistance ended with an edge off Hannon-Dalby.
Abbot was stumped off Patel and when the spinner ousted Edwards with the sixth lbw decision of the innings, Hampshire's relegation fears were suddenly back in sharp focus.
Faced with six overs batting before the close, Warwickshire, on 0 for 0, were not too sorry to see bad light close a crazy day after eight balls.
Hampshire endured deep frustration in Birmingham where there was no play on the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship match with Warwickshire due to a wet outfield.
Steady overnight and morning rain left the grass saturated and, though the rain relented early in the afternoon, the umpires ruled at 3pm that no play would be possible today.
Hampshire require 12 points from the match to ensure they do not accompany Warwickshire down to Division Two for next season, though fewer points may suffice depending upon other results elsewhere.