Joe Weatherley scored his maiden Specsavers County Championship half century for 11 months as Hampshire edged Nottinghamshire on the first day of first-class cricket on the Isle of Wight since 1963.
Weatherley fluently struck 66 as Hampshire reached 288 for six, with Steven Mullaney and Jake Ball both taking two wickets each on a pulsating first day.
Professional cricket returned to the Isle of Wight for the first time in 57 years, with Newclose making its debut as a first-class ground.
The picturesque surroundings offer a beautiful hilly vista on one side and great views of the action due to its various heighted grass banks.
The occasion wasn’t lost on the Islanders or Hampshire members alike as a crowd of around 2,000 packed the bowl.
Nottinghamshire captain Steven Mullaney elected to bowl first without a toss in overcast conditions, albeit with a good paced track.
Opening batsman Weatherley had started the season in meagre form, with scores of 5, 13, 2, 9 and 12 before a breakthrough 46 in the victory over Warwickshire last week.
In fact, since he scored his maiden Championship century vs Lancashire in June 2018, the 22-year-old had only passed 30 twice in 18 innings, at an average of just under 13.
On this occasion, Weatherley batted fluently throughout the morning session, despite Chris Nash putting down a chance at gully whilst the batsman was on 21.
The fifth half century of his first-class career was brought up in exactly 100 balls.
The opening pair, who had got a sighter for the pitch in a Second XI fixture against Middlesex on this ground earlier this month, put on a back-to-back three figure opening partnership.
But it was finally broken on 112 in the 43rd over of the day when Jake Ball found the ridge, which allowed balls to fly up off a length all day, to tickle Weatherley’s glove and be caught behind – although replays and the batsman’s reaction suggested the ball glanced off his forearm.
That wicket brought Ajinkya Rahane to the crease, having arrived late last week to replace Aiden Markram as Hampshire’s overseas player. In doing so he became the first Indian to play for the county.
Rahane departed soon after for a difficult 10 when he was caught at gully off the bowling of Stuart Broad – something the England seamer did twice during last year’s Test series against India.
Bizarrely, the afternoon session was momentarily delayed as a number of fielders lay prostate on the ground as bees appeared to have infiltrated the ground.
But the insects couldn’t prevent Oli Soames, who scored 70 in the Second XI game, from departing six runs short of a slow fifty, two deliveries after the second interval – having batted out 190 deliveries.
Soames had been solid in defence and studious in his rare, if often well-timed attacking shots as he shuffled the score along – it proved a completely opposite style to the 57-ball 62 he thrashed at Edgbaston.
Batting became more difficult as the day progressed, as Nottinghamshire’s bowlers hit their straps, and that was typified in the wickets of Sam Northeast and Tom Alsop – who both departed to Mullaney, the former lbw and the latter caught behind.
Liam Dawson battled hard in a useful 40-run stand with Aneurin Donald before Luke Fletcher flattened his off-stump with the second new ball.
Donald, who reached 35 not out, along with Ian Holland, guided Hampshire to the close without any further losses.