Cricket: Shahid's sting in the tail

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Hampshire 321 and 0-0; Essex 243

WINSTON BENJAMIN'S first wicket for Hampshire made their day here, Leicestershire's West Indian discard rearranging the stumps in only his third over. His new employers could not have been more grateful, for Graham Gooch was the prize victim and Essex, thereafter on the defensive, had to battle to avoid the follow-on.

As Gooch had made centuries in his last two innings against Hampshire, a dismissal short of double figures represented a breakthrough. The Essex captain was beaten three times outside the off stump and then found his defence pierced by a sharper one from Benjamin.

All of which made Paul Terry's three-figure contribution on day one look mighty useful, particularly since Hampshire lost the last eight first-innings wickets for 70 runs in the morning.

Not too impressive, though the acquisition of Benjamin was soon felt even if he gained no further reward until the final session. The effect of his sharp pace, however, drove Essex into a shell from which they only emerged when a stand of 64 for the seventh wicket between Nadeem Shahid and Mike Kasprowicz eventually helped to spare Essex blushes.

Hampshire, mind you, may not have been too unhappy at the Essex escape. At Bournemouth in 1992 they had the visitors following on and were left to score 159 for victory. Chasing the Championship pennant at the time, they were 79 short of their objective when the last wicket fell.

Yesterday, their final pairing of Shaun Udal and Norman Cowans gained them a third bonus point. Udal, unbeaten on 27, secured the extra point with a pull to leg off Kasprowicz, while Cowans's first scoring shot for his new masters was a six out of the ground over square-leg off Mark Ilott.

Kasprowicz, the fast bowler signed from Queensland, later exacted some revenge by showing Essex that he could bat a bit by making 24. Shahid, though, proved the real sticking point. Together with Ilott, he saw Essex save the follow-on and was only nine short of a century when last out, Essex showing a deficit of 78.