Smith earns champions a day off

By Stephen Fay at Southampton Warwickshire 535-8 dec Hampshire 225 & 221 Warwicks won by inn & 89 runs
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The Independent Online
A FRUITFUL combination of Allan Donald's pace, Neil Smith's off- spin and Keith Piper's agility left Hampshire's batsmen in a dishevelled state. So defeated did they look, the only difficult question at Southampton yesterday was whether Warwickshire could win in three days. The answer was yes, they would, but we had to wait until the seventh over of extra time before Smith took his sixth wicket (for 72 runs) and Warwickshire won by an innings and 89 runs.

A three-day win was not merely academic. It is no longer only a matter of points, it's days off, because Warwickshire will be playing at least six days a week for the next month or so, chasing a second successive cricketing triple.

Dermot Reeve had declared half an hour before lunch. Although he was 77 not out himself, he decided that, with Warwickshire 310 ahead, it was better to have Donald and Tim Munton bowling at Hampshire than batting against them. The total of 535 for eight was Warwickshire's best of the season: "We batted our weight at last," said Phil Neale, the Warwickshire coach.

The weather was hot, the pitch was flat, and Reeve's team appreciated they would have to wait for Hampshire's batsmen to make mistakes. What they did not appreciate was how long they would wait. Hampshire's opening pair mix experience and innocence. Paul Terry is 36 and having a good season. Jason Laney was brought into the side four games ago to see if the two would perform together. On today's evidence, the pairing shows promise.

Laney is a stocky, ginger-haired 22-year-old from Wiltshire and he matched Terry shot for shot. Both treated Donald and Munton with proper respect, but for 42 overs they refused to be overawed. Eventually, Terry edged Smith to Piper when he had scored 48 out of the first-wicket stand of 111.

Hampshire's batsmen then played according to plan and made mistakes. In the first over of his second spell, Donald had John Stephenson caught by Piper for five. Tony Middleton drove indecisively at Smith who leapt to his right to take the return catch. Mark Nicholas biffed a couple of boundaries off Smith before succumbing to him. But Laney's was the wicket that mattered most; he seemed to know it and was becalmed after tea until Donald got a thickish edge and Piper, diving low to his right, held the vital catch. Laney's 61 took three and a half hours and he hit eight fours. He was cross with himself as he left the field. He had no cause to be.

Smith and Piper combined to dismiss Kevan James and Munton had Matthew Keech caught at midwicket. Warwickshire's commitment and patience were being tested, but this team expects to win. You can tell by the way they field. Both Ashley Giles and Trevor Penney slid spectacularly on the boundary despite a brutally hard outfield on which any fielder who dived was sure of a skinned knee or elbow. Not prudent, but each time they saved a run.