KYLE Abbott claimed a hat-trick as Hampshire closed in on victory in the Specsavers County Championship relegation battle with Worcestershire after 24 wickets fell on the second day at Blackfinch New Road.

The home side were set a 248 target on a bowler-friendly wicket and had collapsed to 120-8 by the close in their second innings.

The extra half hour was taken but Worcestershire hung on to extend the game into a third day after bad light had the final say.

Abbott had Joe Clarke (33) caught behind, bowled night-watchman Josh Tongue (0) and trapped Ed Barnard lbw (0) to complete his treble – the final three dismissals of an action-packed day.

The 31-year-old is the first Hampshire player to claim a hat-trick since Billy Taylor in 2006 and finished with figures of 10-1-35-5.

Abbot’s efforts put the icing on excellent bowling throughout the day from himself, Dale Steyn and Fidel Edwards which led to Worcestershire’s downfall.

It was just the tonic needed by the visitors after their innings and 52 runs setback against Essex at Chelmsford had sucked them back into the struggle to stay up.

Worcestershire are now facing a virtually impossible task tomorrow to avoid a second successive setback after Lancashire pulled off an unlikely win against the odds in last week’s meeting at Southport.

An indication of the dominance of ball over bat is that only one half century has been scored so far in the game by Hampshire keeper Tom Alsop in his side’s second innings.

Worcestershire resumed on 68-4 in their first innings this morning and were bowled out for 120 in just 16.2 more overs.

Ben Cox had a let off on two when Ian Holland at first slip failed to cling onto a chance offered off Steyn but it did not prove costly.

He added only four more before being caught behind by Tom Alsop off Fidel Edwards to start the procession of wickets during the day.

Skipper Brett D’Oliveira (15) edged Steyn to third slip and then in the same over Ed Barnard (0) fell victim to a fine low catch by keeper Alsop.

Ross Whiteley and Wayne Parnell briefly counter-attacked in adding 30 for the eighth wicket before the innings was wrapped up.

Whiteley (14) came down the wicket to Kyle Abbott and provided Alsop with another scalp and Tongue (4) was comprehensively bowled by Holland.

The innings ended when Dillon Pennington (1) was run out after a mix up with Parnell who remained undefeated on 21.

When Hampshire launched their reply Tongue struck in successive overs as debutant Oliver Soames (0) was bowled and Joe Weatherley (3) was held by Tom Fell at third slip.

It became 25-4 with James Vince (9) nicking Ed Barnard to second slip and Jimmy Adams (13) bowled by Pennington in successive overs.

But Alsop then steadied the ship, adding 44 with Sam Northeast and most crucially in tandem with Dawson.

Parnell dismissed both in successive overs with Dawson (39) caught at second slip and Alsop (64) yorked to the final ball before tea.

The South African also accounted for Steyn (4) to finish with 4-23 on his home Championship debut while Tongue ended with 4-38.

Wickets continued to tumble when Worcestershire began their pursuit of a 248 target with Steyn and Abbott ripping out the top order.

Daryl Mitchell departed to a first ball duck – caught at first slip off Abbott – and fellow opener Tom Fell (2) was bowled by Steyn.

Alex Milton (7) departed in the same fashion and it became 27-4 when D’Oliveira (2) was also bowled, by Abbott.

Edwards came into the attack and Cox (4) perished to a low catch by Alsop before Abbott took centre stage with his late hat-trick.

But Whiteley (37 not out) and Parnell (17 not out) added an unbroken 48 before light intervened.

Hampshire hero Abbott said: “It was quite surreal really, three different dismissals, which kind of sums up the pitch really.

“It is the first of my professional career so I was pretty stoked up by it, I must admit.

“On that pitch there is every dismissal possible and the scores reflect the way the pitch is playing. Every ball I felt I was going to get a wicket.”

Abbott felt the first-ball dismissal of Daryl Mitchell in Worcestershire’s second innings was crucial.

He said: “In these situations it is always nice to set the tone and with Dale (Steyn), the experience we have got, the adrenalin is pumping.

“With that first wicket, you can feel the hush across the ground and immediately doubt in the opposition head.”

Worcestershire head bowling coach Alan Richardson said: “What is my take on the day? A little bit disappointing from the position we felt we were in at the start of the day.

“We were really hoping to build on the start that Daryl (Mitchell) had given us yesterday, to get up to at least parity with Hampshire, maybe get a little bit of a lead, and then make it into a one innings game.

“That didn’t quite happen this morning. They’ve got a very good attack, three international quick bowlers on a wicket that has probably assisted them the whole way through so it has made it really challenging for our guys. We were then behind the game a little bit.

“I thought with the ball in the second innings we showed a lot of fight and a lot of heart as well.”

“Is the difference between the attacks the experience? Certainly three of our seamers are 22 and under and learning their trade.

“At times they have bowled really well and are very promising bowlers but looking at Dale Steyn, Kyle Abbott, Fidel Edwards, who have been around a long time, highly skilled bowlers, potentially you would say that has been the difference, just that experience.

“If you watch Dale Steyn’s second innings new ball spell, it is a fine spell and something that is going to test our guys and one he relished by the look of it. He ran in and bowled really well.”