Cricket: Smith stays in control

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The Independent Online
Essex 124-3

Hampshire 127-1

Hampshire win by 9 wickets

A FINE innings of 73 not out by Robin Smith took Hampshire to victory over Essex and a place in the Benson and Hedges semi-finals in a game that the weather reduced to a 19-over affair.

Hampshire won the toss and, after play began at 4.25pm, their bowlers restricted Essex to just over six and a half runs an over.

The Hampshire batsmen made a slow but sensible start, with the first five overs producing only 13 runs. However, Smith and Mark Nicholas took charge after Paul Terry had been caught and bowled driving at Peter Such in his first over.

Such did not bowl as well as Shaun Udal had done for Hampshire and gave away 26 runs in his last three overs. John Stephenson and Ronnie Irani were also expensive.

Smith reached 50 in only 38 balls and, with Nicholas, brought up the century stand in 11.3 overs. In all, they put on 114 in 74 balls.

Essex had been given a good start by Graham Gooch and Stephenson, who put on 44 in eight overs. They both drove well and took advantage of one loose over each from Norman Cowans and Kevan James.

Udal came on to bowl his off-breaks in the eighth over and Gooch played Udal's second ball off his legs low to Smith at square leg. In his next over Udal bowled Paul Prichard with a yorker and his four overs brought him 2 for 17.

Stephenson made 47 in 43 balls before being bowled slogging at Cowans and it was left to Nasser Hussain and Mike Garnham, with some good strokes and furious running, to take them past 120, but it was not to be enough.