James' jubilation

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The Independent Online
Hants 274 and 276-5 dec

Warwicks 192 and 9-0

Warwickshire have looked out of sorts in this match and face the unfamiliar prospect of defeat unless they can alter the pattern of developments tomorrow, when Hampshire will seek to bowl them out for the second time and become only the third team to secure a Championship victory at Edgbaston in three seasons.

The champions have been outplayed throughout. The cricket has never been enthralling on a sluggish pitch prone to low bounce, but Hampshire have batted and bowled more effectively, mocking the view expressed by some commentators - those who would split the Championship in two - that they are second-division material.

Having finished 13th three years in a row, maybe they are. But that they have played jolly well here cannot be denied. Warwickshire had not been dismissed for a lower total at Edgbaston since 1993 before Friday's 192, which enabled Hampshire to claim a first-innings advantage of 82.

Yesterday they built on that substantially, to the extent that the champions will need to engage gears they have not yet managed to locate, not to mention score the largest total of the match, if they are to win from this position. They will probably be grateful to salvage a draw.

It has not been a pitch to favour any batsman unwilling to apply himself, but Hampshire, who built their first innings on foundations laid by Jason Laney's watchful 73, were well served again by their 23-year-old opener, and then by Kevan James, who is the second 35-year-old to have a major influence on the match following Cardigan Connor's five wickets.

James, recalled from Second XI duties - he shares the captaincy with Rajesh Maru - after Hampshire threw away a winning position against Essex last week, responded with an unbeaten century, his first at this level since 1992, which spanned five hours.

In the circumstances, it was an ideal innings, combining diligence with aggression in a mix which left Warwickshire increasingly frustrated. He struck a dozen fours and two sixes, both against the left-arm spin of Ashley Giles.

Hampshire lost Sean Morris to a fine delivery by Graeme Welch, but James patiently added 51 with Laney, 53 with Giles White and a further 79 with Paul Whitaker.

Robin Smith, who had been prepared to bat if necessary despite a fractured finger, was not required as Hampshire extended a lead of 262 at tea to 358 before exposing Warwickshire to three tricky overs in fading light before the close.