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Kyle Abbott exposes Middlesex's shaky foundations on rain-hit day

Kyle Abbott celebrates the wicket of Craig Overton Getty Images

Middlesex 90 for 4 (Abbott 3-21) vs Hampshire

When the Lord's media centre was still in its infancy, those working within were served tea and coffee in the most magnificent mugs - unbelievably tall, well insulated with a perfectly balanced handle and, best of all, decorated with a sketch of the building in celebration of its love-it-or-hate-it design.

Those mugs were solid, with evidence suggesting they could survive numerous moves across the world (you were allowed to take just one as a souvenir, right?) until the inevitable happened.

After a long wait to begin their match, Middlesex started solidly enough against Hampshire, too. Play didn't begin until 4.15pm after two false starts when the covers were removed and players began to warm up, only to be forced back inside the Pavilion when the rain returned.

Jack Davies, playing just his second first-class match and his first of the season after replacing fellow left-hander Max Holden in the hosts' line-up, and Sam Robson saw their side into the 18th over as they worked their way to 33 without loss.

That was in the face of some class bowling from Keith Barker and Mohammad Abbas, who conceded just 16 from the first 10 overs without getting the rewards they were really after when Hampshire won the toss.

It was Kyle Abbott who cashed in instead with three quick wickets to shatter Middlesex, leaving them 90 for 4 at the close and the not-out Nick Gubbins and John Simpson with a serious mending task.

Abbott replaced Abbas from the Nursery End in the 14th over and, while Robson helped himself to a couple of boundaries in Abbott's second, one of those was in fact very nearly a breakthrough for Hampshire when Robson sent the ball airborne towards point and rocketing through the hands of a leaping Tom Alsop.

It would have been spectacular had Alsop managed to pull it down, and perhaps it was a breakthrough of sorts because, a short time later, Abbott made good on the threat he had posed, drawing Robson forward on an off-stump line and finding an edge which went straight to Liam Dawson at second slip.

Brad Wheal also bowled well - he beat Gubbins' outside edge three times in one over - and removed Davies after a composed 24, edging towards the slips, where Dawson took another catch.

In the next over, Abbott had Peter Handscomb out first ball with a gem that angled in slightly and clipped the top of off-stump. That continued a wretched season so far for Handscomb, the Middlesex captain who now has just 31 runs from six innings, including three ducks.

But Abbott's next wicket was even more of a beauty with the perfect line, length and speed beating everything as Robbie White pressed forward only to hear the sound of his off-stump being knocked out of the ground.

Abbott, now an overseas player for Hampshire after the end of the Kolpak era, missed all of last season's Bob Willis Trophy due to travel difficulties between the UK and his native South Africa during the pandemic.

"For the first time this season I felt I got some decent rhythm," Abbott said on Thursday. "I've been fighting myself a bit - the body's just getting used to these long spells again and long days in the field, which we've had over the last few weeks."

Abbott's four wickets the last time these sides met, a 249-run victory to Hampshire in Round Two, were overshadowed by nine to Abbas, who took a hat-trick in a first-innings 6 for 11.

Abbott also took five wickets from the opening match of the season, which Hampshire won by an innings against Leicestershire.

Since then, Hampshire have drawn with Gloucestershire and lost heavily to Surrey and Somerset, while Middlesex are also trying to bounce back from two defeats on the trot.

"There's going to be some hard work still tomorrow," Abbott said. "We've made some inroads, now it's up to us to take the six remaining wickets as quickly as possible."