Cricket: Gooch gallops home

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The Independent Online
Hampshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .321 and 191

Essex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .243 and 270-2

Essex win by eight wickets

THE reluctant tourist, a tour de force here, was last seen disappearing into a scrum of young autograph hunters. Graham Gooch may be 40 and starting his 22nd season of first-class cricket, but obviously the Essex captain's log is still incomplete. For confirmation just ask Hampshire.

A century from Gooch, backed by a three-figure haul from Nasser Hussain, who did take up a ticket for England's recently completed tour of the West Indies, left Hampshire as castaways trailing in the wake. Apart from some fencing outside the off stump against Winston Benjamin, Gooch looked magnificent.

Gooch and Hussain began another sunny day peering towards the horizon and a target of 168, the match-winning position initially set up by Peter Such's demolition work that amounted to a career-best 7 for 66 on Saturday afternoon. When Benjamin failed to break through, Hampshire could find no answer to halt the flow of runs.

'We blew it,' Mark Nicholas, the Hampshire captain, said. 'We picked the right attack, but just didn't bat well enough. It didn't look like a stuffing.' Eight wickets says it was by the time you open the newspapers, but then Gooch, in particular, is murderous in this mood and Hussain, towards the end, was catching on fast.

Essex also had to thank Such, who turned his off-breaks considerably to emerge as the senior spin doctor in his private battle with Shaun Udal, whose most profitable contribution was a valiant half-century in Hampshire's second innings. When it came to taking wickets, though, Udal could claim only a solitary victim.

Meanwhile, Gooch and Hussain enjoyed the plunder and the arrival of Hussain's first 50 seemed to signal the turning point as he smashed a full toss from Udal through extra cover for a four that brought up the 100 partnership and left Essex needing less than a hundred for victory.

When he was dropped next ball at mid-wicket by Benjamin, Hampshire were just about ready to concede and 25 minutes after lunch it was all over.

The third-wicket stand was then worth 199, Gooch was on 123 and Hussain only eight runs behind him. As for Udal, he had just completed his own century - 1 for 100, that is.