DANNY Briggs continued his stellar start to the season with another four-wicket haul - his reward for going back to basics.
Briggs, the leading wicket-taker in the T20 Blast, was left out of Hampshire’s LV County Championship side until Liam Dawson’s groin injury gave him the chance to shine.
He is doing just that.
Briggs followed his 4-25 against Leicestershire a fortnight ago with 4-29 from 22 overs before Derbyshire closed the second day at The Ageas Bowl on 166-7 in reply to Hampshire’s 388.
He looks back to his best in all competitions and now has more than 150 first-class wickets – three years after bringing up his century within two years of his Hampshire debut.
Briggs last took a Championship five-for in 2011 (in the game that saw Hampshire docked points for preparing a spin-friendly wicket against Nottinghamshire), the year he became the youngest English spinner since Derek Underwood to take 100 first-class wickets.
Dale Benkenstein has revealed that another former England slow left-armer has helped Briggs by encouraging him to bowl as he would in limited-overs cricket.
“I played with Ian Blackwell [at Durham] and knew he kept things simple so as a slow left-armer with a very successful record who’s recently played the game we got him to work with Danny and Liam Dawson,” said Hampshire’s coach.
“We’ve tried to keep it the same with their approach to one-day and four-day cricket.
“It’s not about throwing it up and trying to buy a wicket and Blacky’s helped them quite a lot with that.
“He’s written down a couple of basic things for them to concentrate on and they’ve enjoyed having someone who’s been there giving them advice.
“Every player has to find out what works for them and maybe we’re just going back to what Danny did at the beginning.
“Blacky’s in close contact with them, basically as a consultant, initially for five weeks. We’ll make sure we have a follow up at Somerset next week.”
Benkenstein is keeping the ECB’s lead spin coach, Peter Such, in the loop, five months after Briggs won the last of his eight England caps. “Peter’s been excellent, the correspondence has been really good,” he said.
Benkenstein admitted that Briggs would still be waiting for his first Championship appearance of the season if Dawson was available.
“If you look at Danny’s record it’s not the greatest in four-day cricket so to me it wasn’t that tough a decision [to leave him out], especially in April," he continued.
“Liam’s a decent spinner who gave us a good balance. But to Briggsy's credit he’s really made a difference and shown he can contribute in any innings.”
Briggs extracted some turn and variable bounce from the Northern End, with Sean Ervine taking three catches at first slip off his bowling, while Kyle Abbott benefited from some low bounce in winning two lbw decisions to leave Hampshire in a position of dominance.
Meanwhile, Hampshire have confirmed that Owais Shah has had his initial three-match deal extended for the duration of the T20 Blast.
Shah is likely to play against Kent on Thursday night alongside Glenn Maxwell, who will be determined to go one better than he did with IPL runners-up Kings XI Punjab, after ending an otherwise impressive tournament with a golden duck in the final.