Cricket: Hampshire's cautionary tale

Leicestershire 305-7 dec Hampshire 361 and 276-dec Match drawn
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The Independent Online
LEICESTERSHIRE suffered through lack of personnel and Hampshire through lack of ambition as a match that threatened during the morning to reach an interesting conclusion petered out tamely here yesterday.

Hampshire's decision to eschew a declaration in favour of batting through to the close drew barracking from a crowd more used to the bustle and thwack of 40-overs cricket on a Sunday afternoon.

The point at which the prospect of a meaningful finish died was probably the dismissal of Adrian Aymes on the stroke of noon. Hampshire, 58 for 3 overnight, had already lost Matthew Keech and Peter Hartley when Aymes, whose 133 provided the bedrock of the visitors' first innings, appeared to take his eye off a short-pitched delivery from Alan Mullally and was bowled, the ball deflecting on to the stumps off his shoulder.

This left Hampshire six wickets down and only 123 in front, a position from which captain Robin Smith clearly felt they could not win, especially with his off-spinner, Shaun Udal, labouring with back trouble.

Under normal circumstances, Leicestershire would have pushed home their advantage. However, an attack without first-choice bowlers Chris Lewis, David Millns and James Ormond lacked the resources to complete the job, which invited criticism of Hampshire's decision to shut up shop.

The combination of Kevan James and Dmitri Mascarenhas had the capacity to score quickly and Leicestershire the willingness to comply if Hampshire's thoughts had been on making a game of it. Then again, a placid pitch would have made a target difficult to set if Smith were not merely to toss the home side easy points.

Thus James settled in for a long stay and, having anchored partnerships of 74 with Mascarenhas and 101 with Udal, was still there when Smith observed the formalities by declaring at 5.20pm, ending the match. His 55 had spanned 69 overs and reduced Leicestershire to giving Iain Sutcliffe and Ben Smith a rare turn with the ball.

Sutcliffe, whose occasional off-breaks once earned figures of 2 for 21 in a Varsity match at Lord's, removed one of James's partners with his first delivery when Udal was given out lbw for 62, his first Championship wicket.