Aymes hits out

Worcs 431 and 75-2 Hampshire 393-7 dec
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An extraordinary innings by Giles White, followed by a pragmatic century from Adrian Aymes, his second of the summer, transformed Hampshire's day from hazard to eve- ning harmony. Aymes shared partnerships of 105 with White for the seventh wicket to avert a follow-on and an unbroken stand of 120 with Shaun Udal for the eighth to win virtual parity.

John Stephenson declared two balls after tea, 38 behind, enabling Aymes to reach an unbeaten 100 (201 balls, 14 fours). The wicketkeeper has now batted for nine hours undefeated and, as befits a collector of asterisks, averages 112.

A dry summer followed by a dry winter has spared the square its annual flooding, leaving pristine pitches ideal for batting. Eventually, they should roll out harder and faster but as of now any bowler could hardly be blamed, certainly not in the sight of heaven, for carrying a pocketful of bottle-tops.

Nevertheless, Hampshire were still 279 behind with four wickets gone when they resumed yesterday morning shortly after a heavy shower. Eighteen had been added in four overs, comfortably, with the captain, John Stephenson, striding into the seventies when Stuart Lampitt hit his pads and took the ball on the rebound. Umpire Mervyn Kitchen peered down the pitch, rejected lbw but then signalled a return catch, the ball presumably travelling pad to bat. Three runs later James Bovill, trying to turn Phil Newport, dollied to short mid-wicket, leaving White, Aymes and the tail to bail out their side.

White may have a rustic background, Barnstaple-born, Millfield and Loughborough educated, but he is very much a streetwise batsman, quick-footed, knowing all the angles. He proceeded to enrage Newport by nicking, chopping and gliding him for three successive fours, and managed a fourth boundary in similar fashion an over later. Interspersed were some handsome cover drives, bringing his 50 off 53 balls, with nine boundaries, which left Worcestershire in an exasperated state.

White was undone when the Worcestershire captain, Tom Moody, at last called on spin, Graeme Hick making one ball turn from the rough and wicketkeeper Steven Rhodes scooping up the catch. White departed looking unconvinced. By then, Aymes had taken over the leadership and his tight defence and aggressive opportunism, ably supported by Udal's vigorous batting, gave Hampshire's cricket the sharper edge.

Hampshire's Stuart Milburn cannot bowl again because of a strained shoulder and Worcestershire's Alamgir Sheriyar added to the disruption by running into a fence. Fortunately for Worcestershire, their new bowling coach, Graham Dilley, has some experience of injuries.

Worcestershire had a further 31 overs, losing Phil Weston to a smart slip catch by Milburn's substitute, Raj Maru, and Tim Curtis lbw, both from Cardigan Connor's bowling.