Cricket: Hughes is beaten on points

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THE SECOND round of the summer's long-awaited heavyweight contest between Robin Smith's oversized bat and Australia's larger-than-life bowler, Merv Hughes, was a considerable improvement on the first. After their inconclusive skirmish at Old Trafford, the rematch ended yesterday with Hughes on the canvas.

As Keith Fletcher would say, it is still 'early doors', but Smith's magnificent innings of 167 not out puts him well ahead on points, although the real prizes are still to come. 'It is the best one-day innings I have played,' he said. 'I made a careful start - the ball was moving around and seaming. Once we lost wickets it made it easier for me to try and bat through to the end of the innings.'

Smith's batting has been limited by injury and lack of opportunity this year and he added: 'I've only scored 22 first-class runs, but I felt in reasonable nick. I had been not out twice. By the end I felt great.'

Hughes is as short of bowling as Smith has been of batting, but he had been in charge in his earlier spells, conceding 17 off seven overs as Smith sought to hold together an innings wobbling more than his opponent's midriff. But by the time Hughes returned, Smith had feasted on the lightweight bowling of Paul Reiffel and was exploding all around Edgbaston.

Smith took 17 off Hughes's 10th over, but his final return, 51 off 11 overs, was more a bloodied nose than a knock-out punch and reasonable for a bowler as ill-suited to one-day cricket as the likes of Philip Tufnell and Devon Malcolm. When he is allowed to set a field in which his team-mates communicate by whispers rather than a megaphone and to pitch the ball nearer his feet than the batsmen's, he will be a different proposition. If Smith maintains yesterday's form, however, it will matter little. 'Merv was very quiet, which surprised me,' Smith said. 'I think he has mellowed in his old age, but perhaps he's saving it for the Test series.'

Among the 18,500 admirers, though presumably not one of the many chanting 'sumo' when Hughes bowled, was the Prime Minister, who said: 'It was a rather special innings. Gilbert Jessop would have been proud of it. It was the sort of batting that lightens the heart and fills the ground.' Prince Edward had less to say on it and showed a distinct lack of timing for an aspiring actor, making his entrance after Smith's exit.