Masterful Mullally on cloud nine

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The Independent Online

Hampshire have been here before, to borrow a phrase from J B Priestley, and they probably do not like it very much. A mediocre performance in the field, another struggle with the bat, another match to be salvaged.

Hampshire have been here before, to borrow a phrase from J B Priestley, and they probably do not like it very much. A mediocre performance in the field, another struggle with the bat, another match to be salvaged.

Redemption ought not to be beyond them on this pitch. And at last a suggestion of a long-awaited return to form by Robin Smith would have been as welcome in the Hampshire dressing room as Alan Mullally's 9 for 93, the best figures of his career.

Smith's solitary half-century this season before yesterday was in May. Perhaps an innings from their captain is all Hampshire need to revive the fortunes of some of their other batsmen, for whom there was an all-too-familiar series of lapses against the new ball. They began when Giles White was leg before to the first ball of the innings and continued when Will Kendall was caught behind down the leg side and Jason Laney perished from one which might have been ignored.

This cast a gloom over the innings, in sharp contrast to Derbyshire's purposeful cricket which suggested they expected another wicket with every ball. Once the ball had stopped swinging, though, Smith and Derek Kenway soberly applied themselves to the task of rebuilding yet another innings.

Before that Mullally had used the second new ball to sweep away the lower order and become the first Hampshire bowler to take nine wickets in an innings since Cardigan Connor's 9 for 38 against Gloucestershire in 1996.

Ironically, after the events of the first day, the one wicket to elude Mullally was Mathew Dowman, who had not threatened to cash in on his earlier luck before missing a ball of full length from Peter Hartley.

By then he and Simon Lacey had chiselled out 106 runs for the sixth wicket in 51 overs. Lacey stood firm and went on to make a maiden half-century.

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