Cricket: Smith rescues Hampshire and the match

Derbyshire 523 and 56-0 Hampshire 422-7 dec
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The Independent Online
As backs-to-the-wall operations go, Hampshire's latest effort was relatively uncomplicated and, indeed, very positive yesterday. They were able to declare at tea to keep the game open, mercifully without the need for connivance. They may also quietly fancy their chances batting last today.

Derbyshire's attacking limitations were unsurprisingly exposed by this pitch and Robin Smith did much as he pleased in making 154 from 215 balls. Apart from the whole-hearted Paul Aldred, Derbyshire often bowled without too much conviction and they know now, if they did not before, that Smith is probably the fiercest square cutter in the game.

Yet, as ever, the shape of the day might have been different, even on such a mild pitch. The follow-on figure of 374 was probably still uppermost in Hampshire minds when Smith, at 51, cut Vince Clarke through the upstretched fingertips of Chris Adams at slip.

It was a rare moment when Clarke extracted a little extra bounce to add to his repertoire of long hops and full-tosses and Smith did not look vulnerable again until, having reached three figures from 156 balls, he failed to get over another vigorous cut against Aldred and the ball almost carried to slip.

Before and after those episodes, Smith was so sublime that Hampshire were never under pressure. Kevan James helped him to add 109 for the third wicket before unluckily meeting a ball which, out of general context, stopped and lifted to give Aldred a straightforward return catch.

Encouraged by that, Aldred found some testing bounce and late movement that troubled even Smith, but he dealt savagely with the plentiful supply of dross from other sources. He had hit 23 fours and two sixes when he was caught at slip - by then Hampshire were not only back in the game but Derbyshire had been given cause to reflect on the ill-balanced nature of their attack.

Aldred earned further rewards when he had Will Kendall caught behind and John Stephenson walked into a palpable lbw decision. After Adrian Aymes had been caught at slip cutting at Clarke, Hampshire were happy to declare 101 behind, but first bad light, then rain, interrupted Derbyshire's reply.