Cricket: Boon's lone defiance

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The Independent Online
Durham 203 and 288-9 Hampshire 396

RAIN and bad light were the chief reasons that Hampshire have not yet recorded their first Championship win over Durham. There is little doubt that they will complete the formalities tomorrow and so become the last of the counties to achieve a victory over the side who, since joining the big time in 1992, have become everyone else's whipping boys.

There were one or two pockets of resistance, notably from captain David Boon and Martin Speight, who had just reached his second fifty of the summer when a heavy thunderstorm drove everyone off late in the day. There was also a doughty little innings from Paul Collingwood, who shared in a stand of 82 for the fifth wicket with Boon.

Overall, the NatWest semi-finalists Hampshire deserve to win and only adverse weather (and some is forecast for the final day) is going to prevent them achieving it. Their seamers have dominated proceedings, rather than outright pace, with Peter Hartley picking up his 600th first-class wicket. Shaun Udal's off spin did account for Boon and Collingwood, tempting them into injudicious strokes at critical times, as well as the wicket of Melvyn Betts. Much will depend on how long Speight and the last man Steven Lugsden can hold out when Durham resume a tenuous 95 runs ahead.

Durham began the day with all wickets intact and a 189-run deficit to wipe out before they could think of piling up enough runs to bother Hampshire. The bonus points Durham have accumulated tells much of the story of a haphazard season. They have yet to glean maximum batting points this season and yesterday's effort was symptomatic of all that is going wrong.

As soon as a batsman looks settled he gets out. After the loss of two early wickets Jimmy Daley passed 30 yet again then froze. He made his maiden (and only) first-class hundred against Hampshire, but that was four years ago. Since then he has reached fifty once, back in 1995.

On the stroke of lunch Morris, who had just reached his first half-century of the summer, was superbly taken at short leg by Giles White as he ambitiously and, it might be argued, unnecessarily attempted to turn a ball from Kevan James to the on-side.

Boon, as solid as a rock physically and with the bat, demonstrated a more phlegmatic approach as he hauled his side back into contention. But his patience ran out when Udal tempted him to dance down the pitch. Adrian Aymes needed a second go but had plenty of time to stump him and by the premature close he had five victims, the pick being a superb catch diving to his right to account for Daley.

Like Morris, the former Australian opener Boon had only just reached his fifty and for Durham to stand any chance it needed the Tasmanian to have hung around a lot longer. Speight carried on the fight with a mixture of craft, graft and plain daft shots, rode his luck and leaves a faint flicker of hope, weather permitting.