Cricket: Smith replies to call for runs: Hampshire's cup crusader

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The Independent Online
Yorkshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .178-6

Hampshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .182-2

Hampshire win by eight wickets

NO sooner had Ray Illingworth, the chairman of England's selectors, said on television that he would 'like to pick people who have made some runs' for next week's Texaco Trophy series against New Zealand than there was Robin Smith advancing from his crease to whip Richard Stemp through mid-wicket to bring up his fifty.

Although he was out eight runs later, cutting at the more occasional spin of Paul Grayson, the Hampshire crowd accorded him a reception more indicative of a maiden hundred. It has been a difficult year for their adopted kinsman and, while his innings was a shadow of last summer's Edgbaston demolition of Merv Hughes, it was enough to ensure Hampshire's progress to the third round of the Benson and Hedges Cup.

Set an undemanding 179, Hampshire, anchored by Tony Middleton's 50-over unbeaten 63, eased to victory with eight wickets and more than four overs to spare. Mark Nicholas thumped a series of boundaries to end it as clouds threatened. Both he and Smith were dropped by a Yorkshire side fresh from spilling five chances at Lord's on Monday.

Yorkshire, having chosen to bat, struggled from the start. Martyn Moxon played out a maiden and Michael Vaughan was caught at square leg off his first ball. Moxon went on to 40 in 31 overs, Richard Blakey made the same in 33 before being brilliantly caught by Kevan James in the deep, and Paul Grayson (using a bat named, appropriately for the day, Eclipse) added a quick 22. But they never dominated an attack in which the frugal James excelled.

Hampshire were always in command, though had Blakey held a sharp gloved chance off Smith on 29 they might have struggled. That came two balls after Smith had slashed Richard Stemp just wide of Darren Gough at gully. A sublime on-drive gave Smith eight off the over and Stemp a sense of injustice.

His private battle with Shaun Udal, Illingworth's other publicly promoted spinner, ended with a narrow victory for the Hampshire man, but neither looked quite ready for England yet. However Udal, who claimed Blakey's wicket, is likely to get the Texaco nod through his recent batting form.

As for Smith, his duel with Stemp showed his contradictory approach to facing spin remains, but the swagger is slowly returning and the Kiwis do not have a spinner worthy of the name anyway.

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