Cricket: Curtis stops rot

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Hampshire 228 and 336

Worcestershire 193 and 175-3

ONLY once have Worcestershire claimed victory by scoring more than the 372 set here by Hampshire. Without Graeme Hick and Steve Rhodes and with a top score of only 32 in the first innings, they faced a mountain more akin to Everest than Snowdon.

In 1961, Don Kenyon's side scored 376 to overhaul Surrey and it was their latterday captain, Tim Curtis (78 not out), who anchored this climb on its lower slopes. He has had a dreadfully unhappy season with the bat, this was only the second time he has reached 50 in his 22 innings, although his luck appears to have changed profiting as he did from a dropped chance on 34. But it remains uphill all the way, with 197 still needed and following the loss of Tom Moody (46) six overs before the close.

The fact that Hampshire were without the services of their one-man avalanche, Winston Benjamin, may have had much to do with Worcestershire's relative comfort.

The West Indian all- rounder was unable to bowl due to a shoulder strained in taking six for 46 in the first innings. He can still induce a shower of wickets tomorrow morning which would complete the job started by his team-mate, Robin Smith. With predictable timing Smith had piled up his highest score of the season.

This punishing 162 was his fourth century in five championship matches but whether plundering Worcestershire's thinnish attack was a recommendation or merely a graphic reminder of a power and fluency lost at Test level is a moot point.

Nevertheless, it was a formidable display. He collected the single he needed to go to three figures from his first ball of the morning and blazed seven fours to add to his 13 and two sixes of Friday and seemed well set for a huge score before becoming the second of three victims of the occasional seamer Gavin Haynes who returned career-best figures of three for 19.

With Shaun Udal (40) Smith added 89 for the seventh wicket - the first 50 coming in only eight overs - during a chanceless five-hour innings marked by the ferocity of his cutting and driving.

Stuart Lampitt had made quick inroads with the wickets of Raj Maru and Adrian Aymes to have match figures of nine for 82 to give Worcestershire an early hope only restored in the lengthening shadows by Curtis.

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