Cricket: Smith makes bold reply

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Hampshire 305 and 325 for 8

Yorkshire 257

ROBIN SMITH, displaying no trace of the self-doubt that seems to threaten his Test place, gave Hampshire an opportunity to record their first Championship win of the summer here and leave Yorkshire to wait a while longer for theirs.

Whether the England batsman's three-and-a-half-hour 134 has come in time to prevent his mooted exclusion from the third Test against New Zealand remains to be seen.

At least he sent Ray Illingworth away to meet his co- selectors in Manchester last night with something of a dilemma. If you are going to pick Darren Gough and Richard Stemp, as seems quite possible, how can you leave out a man who scores 100 against them?

The pace bowler Gough, whose fitness is no longer in doubt, performed more effectively than Stemp, whose left- arm spin made little impression on the Hampshire batting. But then the Yorkshire attack, in spite of early gains, achieved little as a unit against Smith, although Craig White, the other England candidate on view, bowled only in brief bursts because of sore shins.

Smith, dismissed without scoring in the first innings, found as solid an ally as he could hope for in Sean Morris. Quite properly for a player seeking to secure his first-team place, Morris got his head down and between them the pair transformed Hampshire's position, decidedly insecure at 11 for two on an apparently deteriorating pitch, to one of prosperity.

Smith was never hurried in his strokeplay yet completed his century swiftly, off 119 balls. By the time an attempt to hook Peter Hartley had him caught behind, the third-wicket partnership had put on 214 in 59 overs, of which 78 had come in boundaries off Smith's blade.

Morris, after scoring 82 in four hours, departed shortly afterwards when Hartley came round the wicket. But by then Hampshire's lead was 290, which Mark Nicholas extended so successfully that Yorkshire will need to exceed their record fourth-innings winning score (331) by a significant margin if they are to come out best tomorrow.