KYLE Abbott ripped through Essex to bowl the Specsavers county champions out for 76 as Hampshire appeared to be strolling towards an innings victory at the Ageas Bowl.

South African face bowler Abbott ended with figures of six for 20 as Essex collapsed to their lowest score of the season.

However, batsmen Dan Lawrence and Ravi Bopara helped Essex reach parity, having been made to follow on, with patient half-centuries as the visitors lead Hampshire by 30 runs at the end of day two.

Essex began the day on 33 for five after Abbott and new-ball partner Fidel Edwards had sparked a collapse, with Hampshire scoring 254, having been asked to bat at the toss.

Abbott needed just four morning deliveries to add to his two wickets the previous morning, when he sent Lawrence’s off stump cartwheeling.

Captain Ryan ten Doeschate had reached 26, the highest score in the innings, but became Abbott’s next victim as he was struck on the pads.

The former Test quick then celebrated his fourth five-wicket haul since re-joining Hampshire at the beginning of the season as he hit Simon Harmer on his back pad plumb in front of the stumps.

The very next ball Neil Wagner was adjudged lbw to a ball pinging back at him, but Jamie Porter unconvincingly blocked the hat-trick ball.

Ian Holland wrapped up the innings when James Foster was lbw – Essex scoring below 100 for the first time for three seasons and completing their lowest score since they were bowled out for 20 in 2013.

That left Essex 178 runs behind Hampshire – who were desperate for the win to confirm their place in Division One for the 2018 season.

After asking the away side to bat again, Varun Chopra gloved Gareth Berg behind to spark worries of a repeat of the first innings.

But Nick Browne and Tom Westley put on 43 for the second wicket in a watchful manner to begin a turn in fortunes.

Browne fell lbw to a sharp Liam Dawson turner, while Westley made a case for Ashes selection with a conditions perfect 36 before smashing a caught and bowled back to spinner Dawson.

At 81 for three, Essex were still 97 runs behind Hampshire, but Lawrence and Bopara partnered up to bat their side towards safety.

Lawrence had got off the mark with a six over mid-wicket, but attacking shots were at a premium as he scored his half-century in 115 balls.

After moving into the lead, and a century stand, Bopara collected his 48th 50 from 106 balls.

Lawrence ended the day - which finished early due to bad light - on 78 not out, Bopara on 52, the stand unbroken on 127 and Essex leading by 30 runs.