Cricket: Hampshire on course

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The Independent Online
Hampshire 338-9 dec and 80-3

Glamorgan 208

ANY hope that second-in-the-table Hampshire might run through bottom-of-the-table Glamorgan as a matter of course seemed to have been firmly dashed from the moment that Colin Metson, the nightwatchman, stuck his left foot down the wicket and straight- drove Malcolm Marshall to the boundary.

Metson is not exactly every bowler's nightmare, nor Marshall every tail-ender's dream, but such is the nature of the wicket here that there are runs to be had by everyone. Everyone, that is, apart from Glamorgan.

In the morning the thin film of grass that covers the otherwise true wicket offered false hope to Hampshire's thirsty bowlers. The fact that by the end of the second day not one batsman had gone on to score a century perhaps says more about the sense of ease and overconfidence that the surface encourages in the mind of the batsman than it does about any inherent difficulties in the pitch itself.

The collapse of Glamorgan's batsmen that saw them slide from 152 for 3 to 208 all out in the afternoon session was as inexcusable as it was inexplicable. The recent announcement that Hampshire will be abandoning their ground at Bournemouth for the cheaper running costs of Portsmouth, would, in spite of Glamorgan's performance, appear to be better news for the batsmen of Hampshire than for the people of Bournemouth.

Metson's easy progress and his half-century partnership with Steve James was brought to an abrupt halt on 25 when he fell to a superb tumbling catch by Marshall in the gully. The fear, however, that anything Metson can do, Matthew Maynard can do 10 times better was immediately borne out.

On a wicket perfectly tailored to his stroke-play, Maynard wasted no time in stepping into his elegant stride. Barely needing to break sweat or flex a muscle, he allowed the ball to come on to the bat and with every stroke in the book eased the ball to every corner of the ground.

Now that the ban on Mike Gatting's rebels has been lifted, it is likely that England's selectors will again be having a long, hard look at the man who was already figuring in their plans for the future when he decided to fly to Johannesburg.

He brought up Glamorgan's 100 with an enormous straight six off Shaun Udal, before reaching his own 50 with a contemptuous cover drive. It seemed that he only needed to keep his head and his wicket to reach his first Championship century of the season.

In the end he lost them both. He struck another imperious straight six off Kevan James, but, as if to provide those in the crowd who may have missed it with an immediate action-replay, he drove the following ball straight to cover and into the hands of Marshall.

David Hemp was another victim of over-exuberance. His well- organised and promising innings of 30 was brought to an end when he slashed wildly at James to be caught at the wicket. With Tony Cottey and Robert Croft also failing to make an impression, the heavy burden of expectation fell on to the broad shoulders of a certain I V A Richards. The great man, though, failed to deliver and after scratching around for 21 runs he sloped back to the pavilion.

With an overall lead in excess of 200 and with Smith still at the wicket, Hampshire's challenge for the Championship remains on course.