Cricket: Hemp carries on Smith's good work as Warwickshire stay top

Warwickshire 255 for 5 Essex 108 Warwickshire win by 147 runs
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The Independent Online
Warwickshire maintained their position at the top of the Axa Life League when they beat Essex with plenty to spare after their batsmen had built a considerable platform.

If Essex were then to have had a chance of victory it would have needed a significant contribution from Stuart Law. When, in the seventh over, Law was bowled trying to pull a ball from Graeme Welch which was too far up, that slender hope died.

Gladstone Small, mainly a limited-overs bowler these days, then took three wickets and Essex were effectively finished.

Essex had decided to field first simply because they prefer to chase runs in this form of cricket. At the start their bowlers fell foul of Neil Smith, and after David Hemp had made sure the excellent start was not wasted Essex's target was much too large for a side that is not batting well.

Smith's two most exciting strokes were a straight drive for six off Mark Ilott and a slashing drive over extra cover for another off Ashley Cowan. His 57 came from 53 balls before he was out in the 18th over driving Darren Cousins to deep mid-on.

The innings now revolved around Hemp, who is in such fine form at the moment and must surely be worth a place in the winter's tour to Kenya and Sri Lanka. Some of his driving was majestic and he hit six fours, all with lovely clean strokes off the front foot.

Good supporting innings were played by Dougie Brown and Dominic Ostler and, right at the end, by Welch. He took 22 from Cowan's last over with a series of powerful drives and it was this over which finally took the game out of the reach of Essex, who will now be more than a little apprehensive about their NatWest final against Warwickshire on Saturday.

After Stuart Law had gone, Nasser Hussain played a few good strokes before trying to run Small to third man and being out to a brilliant diving right- handed catch by Kevin Piper behind the stumps. Small took two more wickets when Paul Grayson and Darren Robinson both drove to deep mid-on, where Smith judged the catches well.

Danny Law was then yorked by Allan Donald's slower ball while Robert Rollins slogged another he held back and was also bowled. Ashley Cowan fenced at Donald and Piper held another fine catch behind and, as in the Championship match, the Essex batting was an ignominious shambles.