Cricket: Terrible tail for Maddy

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The Independent Online
Hampshire v Leicestershire

THE HAMPSHIRE players left the field at the interval between innings smiling in disbelief, as Leicestershire had contrived to keep them in the game with a display of batting from the lower order so poor that a school side would have been embarrassed by it.

Six wickets fell for the addition of only 39 runs as the tail merrily swung the bat without thought or consideration, leaving the excellent Darren Maddy stranded on 89. The innings ended seven overs and two balls prematurely with the score on 248.

Possibly Leicestershire had been duped into believing that victory was already theirs by the lifeless performance of the home side in the field, but there is little room for complacency in sport and Hampshire duly raced to 50 without loss in the 10th over.

The balance of a game can shift very rapidly and until the final overs of the Leicestershire innings, Hampshire had shown little passion or urgency. The fielding was atrocious from the outset, with the ball passing between fielders legs en-route to the boundary on numerous occasions and it was only thanks to Kevan James that records were not broken.

Drafted in at the last minute, he applied the brakes by bowling a commendable line and length - in direct contrast to Nixon McLean who struggled to find any pace or direction. Darren Stevens took a particular like to the West Indian's deliveries and it was his aggression that set the tempo for the Leicestershire innings. He is highly regarded by his team-mates for his positive approach and stylish strokeplay, and his 30 off 26 deliveries was only eclipsed by his replacement at the crease, Jon Dakin.

His 29 off 19 brought little respite to the Hampshire bowlers and if the lower order had worked around Maddy and looked for singles rather than glory shots, the game would have been as good as won.

As it was, their suicidal batting gave a glimmer of hope that became brighter with every boundary from Jason Laney and Derek Kenway, the Hampshire openers. From 50 in 10 overs they raced to 95 at the end of the 15th, profiting from some wayward bowling, before Laney was stumped in Matthew Brimson's first over.

The match was then evenly poised and the winner would probably be the team that made fewest mistakes. Not the best way to win a game but, with both teams struggling in the bottom half of the division, it would not matter to the captains.