Cricket: Hemp puts Hampshire in bear hug

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The Independent Online
Hampshire 168 Warwickshire 172-3 Warwickshire win by 7 wkts

AFTER WATCHING football in cricketing weather and cricket in conditions even footballers would object to, the town's locals turned out in reasonable force yesterday to watch the right sport on the right kind of day. Sadly not only was the result of this CGU National League First Division game the wrong one for them, the performance of the home team was desultory.

Having chosen to bat first Hampshire were made to struggle by some accurate Warwickshire bowling, the England discard Ashley Giles picking up four wickets, and although they began the defence of 168 with the wicket of Anurag Singh, who was bowled offering no stroke to the second ball of the innings from Simon Renshaw, in the end it was no contest.

David Hemp, in his third season with Warwickshire, made his highest "Sunday" score for his adopted county, hitting 72 in 82 balls and putting on 128 for the third wicket with Trevor Penney, who had made 55 when he was bowled by Shaun Udal with the scores tied. Dougie Brown strode in to do the necessary with a reverse sweep and there were more than 15 overs to spare.

It was Warwickshire's first win in any competition this season, and Hampshire's first defeat. A betting man might take it as a sign of things to come for both sides. The Hampshire treasurer, meanwhile, will just be hoping their performance will not deter those who came along, among them hundreds of youngsters, from returning.

At the start of the afternoon Hampshire set about building a challenging total in what looked suspiciously like the last sunshine of the uncommonly decent recent spell. The crowd was estimated at around 2,500, though how many of those were attracted by the name Hampshire Hawks, rather than just plain old Hampshire, remains a moot point with the traditionalists.

Though there were more than a few who had chosen to follow the Bears, the vast majority were to be disappointed as the Hawks batsmen proved less eagle-eyed than their admirers would have wished, disintegrating in shabby fashion from a promising 82 for 2, with Robin Smith going exceedingly well.

His predecessor as Hampshire captain, John Stephenson, had set a useful example, smashing Graeme Welch for successive fours before the same bowler exacted revenge in the 10th over with one that moved away.

Stephenson's dismissal brought in Smith, who timed the ball sweetly from the word go and enjoyed the honour of facing the only "free hit" of the innings following a no-ball by Welch. Smith swung, expansively, was clean bowled and the ball ricochet away for four byes. The next two "normal" deliveries Smith duly dispatched for four.

But just as it seemed we might be in for a treat from Smith, his old failings against spin resurfaced and he was bowled playing down the wrong line to Giles.

A partnership of 52 in 12 overs between Adrian Aymes and Will Kendall looked to be adding some substance to the earlier cameos, but when Aymes was smartly held head high by Hemp off Ed Giddins the rot set in.

Hampshire's last seven wickets fell for 34 runs in 11.2 overs as Warwickshire's attack, featuring a notable contribution from the inexperienced Mohammad Sheikh, enveloped the poor Hawks in, it has to be said, something of a bear hug.