Smith blocks out Northants

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The Independent Online

reports from Northampton

Hampshire 353-3 v Northamptonshire

The umbrellas were held high in the crowd here yesterday - to prevent sunstroke. Northamptonshire, Championship pretenders on this performance, found that putting the block on the other species of stroke, the cut, the drive and the pull, notably from Robin Smith, proved far more hazardous.

Smith, bustling and businesslike as ever, made his 48th first-class hundred but his first from Northamptonshire's attack. A full set beckons against 17 counties if England demands enable him to appear in the next season or so against his final required pair, Durham and Middlesex. His innings of 156 not out featured 30 fours from 281 balls.

A double century partnership between Smith and Mark Nicholas broke Hampshire's 85 year-old record for the fourth wicket in games in Northamptonshire

They must bat better on a potentially turning pitch than they have bowled because their attack was as soporific as the weather. Smith appreciated it and Nicholas too, especially as he had two escapes. Dropped at the wicket on 13, he survived the sharpest of chances to Richard Montgomerie at short leg on 61, also off Anil Kumble, the Indian leg spinner.

Smith's century from 179 balls included the high proportion of 19 fours while Nicholas struck two sixes and seven fours in reaching 52.

Paul Whitaker continues to greet bowlers in their delivery stride with an up-raised bat. Smith, well-practised after England's recent Test ordeal, did some more ducking and weaving to avoid short deliveries primarily from Kevin Curran and Hampshire finished the day only 41 runs short of the county's all-time fourth-wicket record.