Cricket: Uncompromising Smith leads Hampshire home

Essex 187-4; Hampshire 188-7 Hampshire win by 3 wickets
Click to follow
ROBIN SMITH hammered a superb unbeaten half-century to lead Hampshire to a marvellous victory over First Division strugglers Essex with three balls to spare.

There were a couple of great captain's performances, in fact. In addition to Smith's 97 - his highest score in all cricket this summer - Essex captain Ronnie Irani claimed a career-best 5 for 33. But Smith took the honours. That was just as well, since the Hampshire innings got off to a very unpromising start when Jason Laney was caught down the leg side by wicketkeeper Barry Hyam off the first ball, a wide bowled by Ronnie Irani.

And it did not get better for quite a while. Derek Kenway was just getting into his stride when he guided a tame catch to Stephen Peters in the gully.

Smith was in a mean mood and laid bat on ball very hard. He also picked up the pace perfectly, turning a potential procession into the dressing- room into a parade of run-making. His fifty was brought up with the first of his impressive sixes, off 76 balls. He had received able support from Giles White and then John Stephenson.

The only half-century of the Essex innings was on the bowling front, Hampshire's Peter Hartley going for exactly 50 off his seven overs and not a consolatory wicket to ease the pain.

Danny Law promised a half- century but had to be content with his best of the season, which was two short of the mark. It was hugely entertaining, indeed it was just about the high spot of the Essex innings. Both his sixes came in the same Udal over, first when he launched the off-spinner over midwicket and Dimitri Mascarenhas caught the ball as it rebounded off the Pavilion Balcony.

The second one was bigger, the batsman this time pitching the ball on to the roof of the pavilion, where it remained. But he fell next over cutting, having smacked his 48 off 39 balls. Mascarenhas had the best return, conceding 14 runs in four overs and picking up two wickets.

There was a slightly bitter finish to the Essex innings when Paul Grayson, who finished unbeaten on 31, and Stephen Peters (28 not out) stole a single when Hampshire thought the ball was dead after wicketkeeper Adrian Aymes had taken a Nixon McLean delivery and flipped it straight to Udal in the gully.

Umpire Jeremy Lloyds did not rule that the ball was dead and at the end of the over Aymes and Grayson had a brief jostling match, although they were grinning about it as they came off the field at the close of the innings.

Scoreboard, page 23