Aneurin Donald fell six runs short of an explosive century but tailender Kyle Abbott’s 57 pilfered full batting points for Hampshire in their quest for the LV= Insurance County Championship title.

Hampshire dominated Northamptonshire’s bowling attack with 171 runs coming in 28 overs with Donald’s 84-ball 94 and Abbott’s 45-delivery barrage doing heavy damage.

Having been 167 for five and 273 for seven, the idea of reaching 400 for maximum points seemed fanciful, but Abbott was astonishing in making sure the last wicket got the 46 runs required, to maintain the pressure on leaders Surrey.

Having declared at 400, Northamptonshire were brilliant in their defence, with only Will Young falling before reaching 77/1 at the close.

An all-action, but all-too-brief, half an hour morning session before the rain hit, saw Liam Dawson half-driving to second slip to the seventh ball of the day and Donald reach his half-century in 53 balls.

When play returned, with Hampshire 273 for six, it proved a breathless 20-over afternoon.

It started well for Northamptonshire when Luke Procter bowled Barker with the first ball on the resumption, but from then on boundaries were a regular occurrence and runs flowed.

It was peak Donald as he mixed the glorious drives with agricultural aggression. One over he was swatting a six and swinging hard and getting an edge over the slips, the next he’d be caressing through the covers.

The Welshman has a skill of lifting the run rate regardless of the match situation, and more often than not makes a telling contribution, with this his third fifty in 10 innings this season.

On his comeback game, against Gloucestershire in May, after two years without playing after twice breaking his leg, he scored 89. Again, looking on course for three figures he fell six runs shy when he was lbw to Josh Cobb when attempting an uncharacteristic sweep shot.

He’d added 63 runs in 52 balls with the equally boisterous James Fuller – who was caught at mid-on after the highest of skiers soon after. Hampshire were 354 for nine, possibly happy with four batting points but allowed Mohammad Abbas to keep Abbott company for a while.

“A while” turned out to be just over eight overs of happy-go-lucky batting which totted up 46 runs. No.10 Abbott naturally took the majority of the strike and intelligently swung hard to claim seven fours and two memorably long sixes. It was his 11th first-class half-century and first since last April.

A single, off an inside edge, took the score to 400 and brought about the declaration. The extraordinary session saw 127 runs pour in 119 balls, and the final wicket pair unbroken on 46.

Will Young and Emilio Gay were impeccable in the face of the highest, fourth and sixth-highest wicket-takers in Division One.

The movement off the pitch was less than Ben Sanderson and Co managed the previous day but the opening duo’s technique and resolve, especially when leaving the ball, saw them through the new ball.

They managed to get through to the 20th over with the light ever dimming before Young was trapped on the creased and leg before to Abbott. Eventually bad light stopped play with the deficit still 323 runs.