Cricket: Smith sparkles

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The Independent Online
Derbyshire 472 & 145-5

Hampshire 494

For an hour yesterday Robin Smith was imperious. If it was not exactly rolling back the years - Smith is still only 32 - the disdainfully powerful shots he unfurled were a reminder of a happier, more dominant era.

He clipped with brutal precision off his legs, he crashed the ball through the covers off the back foot after reaching his first century of the season, the 49th of his career.

The final third of his innings revealed nothing of the demons which have tormented him this past couple of years and which persuaded him to seek the services of the television hypnotherapist, Paul McKenna. Smith says he goes under the influence easily but it was he who entranced yesterday.

He will require long periods of sustained dominance, however, to have any hope of re-entering selectorial thoughts. The bowler who dismissed him was Dean Jones and this wicket, his third, gave him career best figures for the second time this summer.

In 16 years he had never taken more than one wicket in an innings. Two balls later he had a fourth and he was to finish with an astonishing five for 112.

At this stage in the proceedings - shortened by an hour because of light drizzle - such statistical cameos were essential since the match appeared to be losing its way. Hampshire chose to bat on instead of declaring behind, at the time perhaps a decision of doubtful wisdom.

Still, it was jaunty stuff. Shaun Udal blazed merrily away for 42 from 48 balls and Adrian Aymes' unbeaten half-century took his runs for the summer to 421 and his batting average is now 105.

Hampshire led by 22 and set about swiftly to demonstrate that they were right in having continued. Derbyshire were in front by only five runs when they lost their second wicket, both Cardigan Connor and James Bovill operating well with the new ball. Wickets fell at regular enough intervals to make Hampshire's approach seem perfectly correct, and they are marginal favourites on a pitch granting some turn.