AMID all the drama at Edgbaston it was easy to forget that Hampshire’s latest Great Escape secured their highest County Championship finish for nine years.

The line between success and failure in county cricket’s top flight has never been finer.

On a ground where they have lost five T20 semi-finals since their last Championship win away to Warwickshire, Hampshire’s draw was celebrated with as much gusto as any of their three victories in this season’s first division.

You have to go back to early June, when Warwickshire lost the reverse fixture at the Ageas Bowl by an innings and 94 runs, for the last of them.

Eight matches later, Hampshire produced the grittiest of rearguards to avoid the unthinkable.

They began the final day facing a simple equation: Defeat would send them down while a win or draw would make them safe and condemn Middlesex to division two along with Warwickshire.

And it was Middlesex who plummeted after Hampshire survived a couple of post-interval scares, to reach the close on 195-7.

After the loss of the first hour due to a wet outfield, they never showed any interest in chasing a victory target of 259.

When a flurry of wickets straight after lunch sent them dipping to 68-4, nerves were jangling.

But James Vince made an obdurate 30 in more than two and a-half hours after Ian Holland and Gareth Berg calmly added 61 in 19 overs to keep the Bears at bay.

Hampshire resumed on the final morning on 20-1 and , after a truncated morning session, reached lunch without further loss as Tom Alsop and Sean Ervine took the score to 64.

But they hit serious postprandial trouble with the loss of three wickets for four runs in 16 balls.

Ervine edged Ryan Sidebottom behind, then Jeetan Patel had Alsop taken at slip before George Bailey essayed a reverse-sweep, a staggeringly inappropriate shot in the context of the game, and fell lbw.

Suddenly, Hampshire’s First Division status was looking precarious but Vince and Liam Dawson knuckled down diligently.

Vince started positively then retreated into total defence while Dawson started in total defence and remained there.

At one stage seven overs passed without a run off the bat but the fifth-wicket pair hoovered up a vital 30.3 overs (in which came 41 runs) before Dawson, having scored nine runs in 109 minutes, edged the impressive Sidebottom to the wicketkeeper.

That left Hampshire 113-5 with a minimum of 32 overs remaining and they suffered another wobble when Vince (30, 124 balls, four fours) nicked a superb ball from Sidebottom.

But, to Middlesex’s dismay, Holland (21 not out, 90 balls) and Berg (34, 66) kept their nerve amid a posse of close fielders.