Cricket: Cool Kendall steers Hampshire to top

Middlesex 256 and 339 Hampshire 379 and 219-4 Hampshire win by 6 wickets
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The Independent Online
HAMPSHIRE HAVE a look about them these days. A top-drawer look. This morning they sit at the top of the County Championship, and they deserve to after a well-ordered victory over Middlesex.

There were moments when it looked as if Middlesex might just frustrate their opponents and force a draw, especially when their young seam attack put the pressure on in the middle of the Hampshire second innings and picked up crucial wickets to spoil the momentum.

But in reality the boldness of the Hampshire approach was what won the day. Set a target of 217 to win off 40 overs, they won with 15 balls to spare. The loss of captain Robin Smith and opener John Stephenson early on did not ruffle them unduly either because, having set off like an express train, they were always up with the asking rate.

Giles White and Will Kendall shared a delightful third-wicket partnership and knocked off 81 of those runs at five an over. When White was caught behind off Simon Cook, Kendall kept his head, his wicket and the scoreboard ticking over. He reached a fine half-century and by the end was unbeaten on 78.

Nixon McLean was promoted up the order and filled five overs with some big hits and hopeful heaves, but when he perished in the deep Derek Kenway took up where he had left off and by the end it was rather a formality.

If it had not been for Mike Roseberry, it would have been all over long before. Roseberry took the long, hard road out of his personal batting hell and picked up his career roughly where he left off in his previous incarnation at Lord's five years ago. At precisely 12.57pm yesterday, when he clipped a delivery from off-spinner Shaun Udal to the square-leg boundary, he reached his first Championship hundred since June 1994.

That was for Middlesex against Durham, the county he joined at the end of that season. And that was when his troubles began. He had returned to his native North-east as captain, sporting a first-class average of 37.30 and taking with him a dream of helping to establish Durham as a top county side.

Sadly, it did not pan out for him, or them. He gave up the captaincy halfway through the summer of 1996 as he strove to rediscover his form. Cruelly and obstinately, it eluded his every overture until finally Roseberry had had enough and returned south to the county with whom he had enjoyed so much success in his early days.

By now his career average had slipped below 35, no surprise since his four summers in Durham had seen him score just 1,302 Championship runs and a shade more than 1,800 in all first-class matches. Signing up for Middlesex, for one season initially, indicated that he felt he was entering the Last Chance Saloon and a scratchy start has kept the bat-wing doors ajar, until the arrival of Hampshire.

Suddenly he has emerged into the street all guns blazing. He followed his first-innings 44 with this hundred, the 20th of his career but his first against Hampshire, and helped to drag Middlesex back into this match. His contract is already under review.

When Roseberry went, the Middlesex batsmen dug in. The last three wickets added 67, with Hampshire's Alex Morris finishing with five for 79, his third five-wicket haul in four innings.