Hampshire 319 (Holland 64, Northeast 63, Abbott 58) and 204 for 2 (Northeast 99*, Holland 90*) lead Middlesex 79 (Abbas 6-11) by 444 runs
Around an hour into the second morning of this match, Middlesex's bowlers were preparing to put their feet up in the dressing room in recognition of a hard job well done. Then came the Mohammad Abbas-inspired madness, a sickening sense of preconceptions being upended, and the desperate scramble for batting gear. Abbas sized up the pitch on his home debut, claimed a hat-trick inside seven balls, and had a five-for before the end of his third over, as Hampshire brutally seized control.
Middlesex started and ended the day in the field, the one major difference being that they were now in hock to the tune of almost 450 runs after Hampshire declined to enforce the follow-on. Sam Northeast and Ian Holland added a double-century partnership in untroubled fashion, both walking off in the 90s at the close, as the home attack took their chance to recharge. Abbas might look more like an accountant than a strike bowler, but you don't have to have the instincts of either to know which team the sums favour from here.
Strike bowler he surely is though, and the Pakistan seamer demolished any notion that this could be a close contest within the space of 5.5 pre-lunch overs, as Middlesex tumbled to 14 for 5 in response to Hampshire's 319. Abbas finished his day's work with hypnotic figures of 11-6-11-6, as Middlesex were eventually rounded up 79; only three batsmen managed double-figures, with Nathan Sowter's 24 not out from No. 9 the highest score of the innings.
Ramadan started this week, and although Abbas is not currently fasting, he said that his "great day" had been influenced by the Islamic holy month. At 31, it was the first hat-trick of his senior career.
"I took two wickets and before I bowled for my third wicket I realised Ramadan is going on and that is lucky for us, and Friday is a day that is lucky for me," he said. "I have played here before when I was with Pakistan and the pitch had something in it for me, and I bowled on point in the right areas."
Hampshire's new overseas signing, currently out of favour with Pakistan's selectors, has shown on more than one occasion previously that it pays not to underestimate his shuffling gait and 78mph stylings. A two-season stint with Leicestershire in 2018 and '19 yielded 79 wickets at 20.67 and, while a shoulder injury might have hampered his effectiveness at Test level, he emphatically restated his qualities as a county operator.
This was the definition of a controlled explosion, as Abbas detonated the Middlesex top order with five wickets in 13 balls. The subtlety of his methods was borne out by the fact each wicket-taking delivery pitched in roughly the same area but confounded the batsmen in a variety of ways.
Max Holden was the first to go, jumping from the crease to narrow the angles in his favour, only to steer an edge to third slip. Nick Gubbins, another left-hander, was pinned by one that came back at him (although there was a suspicion it might have pitched outside leg); then, with the first ball of Abbas' next over, Stevie Eskinazi was sucked in by length and spat out by seam movement - a feathered outside edge giving the bowler his moment.
He wasn't done there, either, as Middlesex's tricky hour before lunch became a match-defining collapse. Robbie White and Martin Andersson were both trapped in front of their stumps by in-duckers - White playing forward, Andersson hanging back - to complete a five-for that had scorers and Twitter statisticians consulting their databases. For the record, Abbas' efforts fell just shy of Ryan Patel's five in 11 balls at Guildford in 2018, while Jacques Kallis claimed a Test five-for in 12 deliveries against Bangladesh in 2002.
Abbas had all six wickets to fall when Sam Robson went shortly after lunch - edging to slip as the bowler shortened his length in response to Robson's deliberate efforts to get forward - before Kyle Abbott, who had claimed a 17-wicket match haul on his previous first-class appearance at the Ageas Bowl, finally got in on the action, as Toby Roland-Jones chopped a drive into his stumps.
Sowter and John Simpson managed to double the score, meaning this was ultimately only Middlesex's lowest total since being dismissed for 75 at Hove two summers ago, before Brad Wheal cleaned up the innings with three cheap wickets.
Ambushed by Abbas, Middlesex were left feeling abashed - and with Hampshire deciding to bat again on a lead of 240, they had plenty of time to reflect on their shortcomings. Roland-Jones and Ethan Bamber struck early to give Middlesex a glimmer at 2 for 2, but the third-wicket pairing of Northeast and Holland steadied Hampshire before pressing on resolutely, both passing 50 for the second time in the match to consolidate a position that was nigh on impregnable.
The quality of Middlesex's attack had seemingly kept the home batsmen in check on day one but, in a harbinger of what was to come, more foot-slogging was required on the second morning to finish off Hampshire's first innings. Roland-Jones, Bamber and Steven Finn posed plenty of questions - though none came close to the sort of unanswerable spell provided by Abbas - and they were made to work right until the end, Finn finishing with 4 for 96, as Abbott's nuggety half-century took Hampshire past 300 for a third bonus point, and a position that would soon be revealed as dominant.