Cricket / NatWest Trophy Second Round: Sussex coast to victory: Barrie Fairall reports from Hove

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Hampshire 248-4; Sussex 252-1. Sussex win by nine wickets

THE SMITHS made music with the bat here, but while Hampshire's Robin Smith scored his third hundred in six innings, it was centuries from David Smith and Bill Athey that sounded a triumphant note for Sussex yesterday. And about time, too, for the home supporters, who have been waiting since 1986 for a chance to cheer their side into the NatWest third round.

Smith and Athey changed all that, the pair matching Hampshire's total exactly before they were finally separated to spare Hampshire the complete whitewash. As it was, they broke the competition record of 242 for an opening stand set by Yorkshire's Martyn Moxon and Ashley Metcalfe against Warwickshire at Headingley in 1990. Poor Hampshire never got a look-in until the penultimate over.

That was when Cardigan Connor yorked Smith while on 123, the left-hander's consolation coming by way of the man of the match award. It was to prove the closest contest of the day, Athey remaining unbeaten on 107 and at one stage matching Smith stroke for stroke. Certainly, no one envied Brian Luckhurst, the adjudicator, his task.

Hampshire had experienced only one previous meeting with Sussex in the NatWest Trophy, a quarter-final in 1967 that also ended in defeat here. The margin then was nine runs, something they would have settled for rather than this sort of thrashing on a bright and breezy day for batsmen. The problem now was that they had nothing like enough runs in the bank.

Mark Nicholas won the toss and decided to bat and while Robin Smith continued a remarkable run, the foot was never pushed down firmly enough on the accelerator. Six wickets in hand come the end of 60 overs told its own tale and there was never enough on the board for bowlers to defend.

Hampshire's Smith must have been seeing it like a football after making an unbeaten 105 against Staffordshire in the previous round, 191 and nought against the Australians at Southampton and 86 and 50 in the third Test at Trent Bridge. While he and Paul Terry, who made 71, put on 126 in 32 overs for the second wicket, Smith took 121 balls to reach three figures and struck only 10 boundaries in his 104.

David Smith and Athey, meanwhile, paced the chase to perfection and the only glimmer of hope for Hampshire came with the score on 136. Athey, though, was put down by Adrian Aymes off Malcolm Marshall when 55 and Smith, who had made 71, survived a sharp caught and bowled by Shaun Udal. From then on, the pair strode towards the finish.