Smith augments major pounding of minor

Hampshire 321-4 Cambridgeshire 82 Hampshire win by 239 runs
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The Independent Online
A trip to Fenland can be a diverting business. The large horizons, interrupted by ditches, spires and warehouses, can disorientate and distance, like the difference between minor and first-class counties, ought to be measured in leagues. Certainly here, Cambridgeshire were not in the same one as Hampshire who crushed their hosts by 239 runs, the sixth heaviest defeat in the competition's history.

Minor counties live for days, if not results, like this. Each dreams of an upset that will give them their 15 column inches of fame. But as neither an incubator of young talent nor a provider of rigorous competition (only three batsmen managed to stagger into double figures here), their role in the new Strategic Plan, announced on 5 August, must be under threat.

Before the England and Wales Cricket Board's inception last January, the Minor Counties' Association received pounds 660,000 in hand- outs. Unless they can contribute in pushing talent up the pyramid towards the England team at its apex, it is hard to envisage such payments continuing.

Comprising largely of part-timers - their fastest bowler, Chris Whyborn, is an officer in the RAF, while their steadiest, Tim Smith, farms Llamas in Hertfordshire - the home side had little power in preventing Hampshire's batsmen from taking the game out of their reach.

On a sluggish pitch, Matthew Hayden, who scored 90, and Robin Smith nudged stroked then bludgeoned their way to a second-wicket partnership worth 176 runs. Returning from a back injury, Smith, whose 126 won him the man of the match award, was comfortably the more domineering partner and despite conceding a 16-over start to the Australian, overtook him as each entered the 80s.

Hayden had clearly set himself the task of batting through the innings and his dismissal, caught and bowled by flying officer Whyborn with some eight overs to go, clearly irked.

Of course, the home side might well have had something more feasible to chase had Brad Donelan - one of two professionals - held on to a chance from Smith when the batsman was on two.

Until that moment, they had kept Hampshire on a fairly tight leash with some straight if paceless bowling from farmer Smith and Ajaz Akhtar. It was not the only aberration, and two further catches and a Caribbean amount of extras helped the visiting side to distance themselves even further.

Faced with such an enormous task, the home side's response was predictably weak. Hampshire are not the bowling superpower they used to be when Malcolm Marshall tore in off 35 yards, but their adherence to the basics of line and length was too much for their opponents on this pitch as John Stephenson, the Hampshire skipper, ended with a career-best 5 for 34.