JAMES Tomlinson batted like The Beard That’s Feared as he scored his maiden first-class fifty while sharing a tenth-wicket century partnership with David Balcombe.
Hampshire fans are used to seeing the bearded No. 11 star with the ball but he showed there is more to his game by playing a few shots that Moeen Ali, the hirsute left-hander of Worcestershire and England, would have been proud of.
Tomlinson (51) and David Balcombe (65no) shared an impressive 115 before Hampshire were finally all out for 297 on a rain-affected second day of their LV County Championship match against Gloucestershire at The Ageas Bowl.
After resuming on 251-9, when their partnership was worth 69, the last-wicket pair added a further 46 in 11 entertaining overs after Gloucestershire began the day by taking the second new ball.
Looking like a modern-day WG Grace, Tomlinson went past his previous career-best score of 43 before hitting the slow left-arm of Tom Smith for successive fours, through mid-wicket and backward of square, to reach his maiden first-class fifty from 97 balls – before chipping the next delivery straight to mid-off.
“I’m not sure about Moeen Ali but I heard [David] Gower mentioned a few times,” smiled Tomlinson.
“It’s been a long time in the making and was a great feeling, although not as good as taking five wickets.
“It was a real shame I got out when I did. I normally get bored when I bat but just got over excited!"
Tomlinson, who was on 33 overnight, hit four of his seven fours on Monday evening, including what he rates as one of the best shots of his career.
“[Liam] Norwell put a short leg in and a man round the corner so I knew I’d get some bouncers, but he pitched one up and I hit straight through it - that was a great feeling.
“In the past I would have blocked it but Dale Benkenstein’s told me to bat aggressively and with a bit more freedom, but be selective with it, and that worked.”
The 115-run partnership came at nearly four an over and is the highest tenth-wicket stand in the County Championship this season.
It is Hampshire’s highest for the last wicket since Balcombe hit his career-best 73 in a stand of 168 with Chris Wood against Leicestershire at Grace Road two years ago, when Tomlinson was nightwatchman.
Balcombe finished unbeaten on 65 (97 balls) yesterday and reached his third first-class fifty by pulling the seventh of his nine fours, before a back-foot force brought up the 100 partnership.
“I felt a bit scratchy and didn’t hit the ball as well as I did the night before, but Balcs was very easy to bat with," continued Tomlinson.
“He hit it on the floor and batted as well I’ve seen him. I let him down but I’ll blame him for not telling me to calm down after getting my fifty!
“We showed how good the wicket actually is and I think he could have got a hundred the way he was batting.”
Not for the first time, an Ageas Bowl greentop provided a reminder that looks can be deceptive.
Tomlinson (1-29) took the only wicket to fall as Gloucestershire reached 94-1 during the remaining 26 overs of another rain-affected day. “It’s a good wicket and their batting is strong but we gave them too many boundaries,” added Tomlinson.
“Anything can happen but we’re going to have to bowl well for two sessions.”