Buckinghamshire competed fiercely and the cheering of a good crowd, with every seat taken, emphasised that whatever may be wrong with the English game at the highest level, here in NatWest round three it is booming.
Without the injured Allan Donald and Ashley Giles, Neil Smith decided runs on the board was the priority, batting first on this delightful ground, in sunshine and a gentle wind and on as immaculate a surface and outfield as will be seen in heaven. Batsmen would soon have disagreed. The pitch was slow, suggesting some residual damp (the Thames is a quarter of a mile away), and there were enough mistimings to suggest that the odd ball was not coming through at a constant rate.
James Bovill, once of Hampshire, also found some movement through the air, leaving Nick Knight and Smith struggling to reach three runs an over. Smith was missed off a skier when 11 and was eventually caught behind, leaving Knight and Hemp to give the innings the platform with 59 in 15 overs for the second wicket.
Knight took advantage of a short, straight boundary to hit a soaring six before checking his drive and giving mid-off a simple catch. After that the innings revolved around Hemp, who seemed to have his gears functioning much sooner than his colleagues. His first 50, containing six fours, took 74 balls; his second, with three more fours and three sixes, only another 27.
The obvious and substantial difference in the teams, as might be expected, lay in the bowling, the professionals extracting every possible assistance from the elements. Ed Giddins and Tim Munton, by then bowling under cloud on a warm afternoon, were almost impossible to counter and would have finished the match by tea had they not been restricted in their overs. Munton's opening spell of six overs (one wicket) cost five runs, of which four were wides. Giddins took wickets in the third, seventh and ninth overs.
Neil Burns, formerly of Essex and Somerset, hit some powerful blows until deceived by Mohammed Sheikh's change of pace, and Tim Scriven led a merry little counter-charge by the tail.Reuse content