Cricket: McLean seizes advantage

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The Independent Online
HAMPSHIRE maintained the upper hand as Leicestershire struggled to compensate for the absence of five front-rank players yesterday.

Leicestershire will begin the third day with some ground still to make up towards their initial target of avoiding the follow-on after the West Indian fast bowler, Nixon McLean, claimed three wickets before bad light and rain interrupted play in mid-afternoon.

His dismissal of Ben Smith, with a ball the batsman can scarcely have seen, precipitated a second stoppage. Having had his off-stump knocked out of the ground, Smith must have wished he had accepted the chance to leave the field moments earlier, as an area of grey cloud stubbornly made its presence felt.

McLean has the pace to pose difficulties even on the brightest day, and even on a relatively placid pitch such as the one he has hit hard in this contest.

Smith gave Leicestershire's first innings a swift start but Vince Wells never looked comfortable and there looked to be little conviction in the waft that had him caught at second slip. Iain Sutcliffe, promoted to open in place of Darren Maddy - absent on England duty - was leg before to an inswinging yorker.

The removal of Smith may yet prove important, given his rapid advance to 40. Having been helped off the mark with four overthrows, courtesy of Peter Hartley, Smith was soon hitting the ball sweetly and collected six more boundaries in his first 30 runs, including a couple of fairly imperious blows off McLean himself.

Hampshire continued to exploit Leicestershire's weakened attack before lunch. Alan Mullally finished with five wickets and impressive figures after shouldering a heavy workload but wicketkeeper Adrian Aymes, who extended his fourth Championship century to a career-best 133, and Shaun Udal, with 44, turned Hampshire's total into one that may form the basis for their first victory of the season.