Bevan's bevy of runs

Hampshire 429 and 166-3 Yorkshire 431-8 dec
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The Independent Online
ABOUT the most charitable thing to be said about the cricket here yesterday is that there was some cricket to watch. In some parts of Britain, so-called current matches finished either on Friday or between breakfast and the first gin and tonic yesterday. But given the way this game meandered along in mediocrity for a lot of the time, it was worth wondering if this kind of cricket wasn't as terminal as the games already dead and buried.

Two things summed up what was wrong with the day's play. First, Yorkshire's failure, by one run, to secure all four batting points, on the kind of pitch on which a generation of England batsmen have forged their credentials, and secondly the fact that play dragged on mercilessly until after 7pm. A glance at the extras column doesn't say a lot for the quality either.

Resuming yesterday at 225 for two from 84 overs, in response to Hampshire's opening bid of 429, Yorkshire ground along until their tea-time declaration without ever suggesting they might seize the initiative. Yet both their overnight left-handers, David Byas and Michael Bevan, were in form, having hit hundreds in the previous championship match, and Hampshire's bowling looked there for the taking. After an hour they posted their half-centuries and the hundred partnership in consecutive overs, but instead of expansion we were treated to further consolidation.

Several times early on, Bevan had danced down the pitch to straight drive young Richard Dibden's tyro off-spin for four - and occasionally he struck the ball with a ferocity more foreign than familiar to English cricket. His 107, made in just over four hours, contained 13 fours. Yet it was not until he was joined by Bradley Parker that the scoring and the entertainment picked up. Parker, who lost his place to Bevan this summer after establishing himself last year, was never overshadowed by the Australian. Driving and pulling crisply, Parker made Shaun Udal's off-spin look ordinary.

Byas had gone before lunch, caught at short cover cutting a ball too close for the stroke, and Craig White, having promised to bring in the bonus points with a flurry of fours, had been lbw to the peripatetic John Stephenson. The comings and goings of the injured Stephenson were later the subject of an earnest conversation between the umpires and the Hampshire captain, Mark Nicholas.

Had Yorkshire batted throughout yesterday with more urgency, they could have taken a strategic lead on first innings instead of turning round only three runs ahead. Now they will be banking on a gambler's declaration from Nicholas to give them something of a target to chase. Nothing their bowlers delivered last night suggested they will bowl Hampshire out a second time, while some of the dross from Richard Stemp was declaration bowling in everything but intent.

A late lively ball from White beat Paul Whitaker, but Paul Terry's half- century leaves Hampshire well positioned to dictate tomorrow's game plan.