Smith gives selectors notice

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Cricket

DEREK HODGSON

reports from Bristol

Hampshire 323-9 v Gloucestershire

The Robin Smith who opened for England at Headingley looked rusty. The Robin Smith who batted No 4 here after six overs and scored 136 looked, if he will pardon the expression, well-oiled. This Robin Smith will almost certainly open the innings for England at Lord's.

The selectors meet today, and although it is everyone's wish to restore the Mike Atherton-Alec Stewart partnership, unless and until a proper all-rounder appears it seems the current experiment with Smith, or another opener, will continue. On past history, on recent form, Smith is the man.

This game between fourth and sixth in the table was turned on its axis by Smith's resolution and technique against seam bowling. His dominance of both the innings and the bowling can be assessed: his fifty came out of a score of 90 for 4 off only 85 balls.

Gloucestershire were nevertheless happy to celebrate a successful morning by capping Javagal Srinath, Monte Lynch and Kevin Cooper, but it was another Smith - Mike - left-arm medium, once of Dewsbury, who took his sum of wickets to 35 and whose cap must surely follow very soon.

Mark Nicholas chose to bat on a deceptively good-looking surface that proved to be, until the midday sun, skiddy and two-paced. Sean Morris lost his off-stump to a ball that barely lifted, John Stephenson edged to slip off David Boden, Paul Terry also lost his off-stump and when Nicholas was caught behind off Srinath, Hampshire were 52 for 4 in 17 overs.

Smith appeared unruffled amid the wreckage, although the clever Srinath once appeared to have put a ball through him and the middle stump. With Giles White an able partner, he lifted the score to 169 in a watchful 41 overs. White was lbw, not offering, to Vyvian Pike, deputy spinner to the injured Martyn Ball, and Robin Smith went in similar fashion to the returning Mike Smith just before tea, his runs coming off 217 balls and including 18 fours.

Hampshire then sailed richly into a glorious evening, the tail taxing a tiring attack. Adrian Aymes was run out by a square-on throw from Mark Davies, substituting for Andrew Sym-onds, who is fighting off flu. Kevan James made hay after Srinath suffered a back strain.

What started as most promising match for Gloucestershire is turning to tears. As for Smith, watched by selector David Graveney, he seems safely back in the England squad until the first West Indies' spinners appear, and that is unlikely to happen before Old Trafford or Trent Bridge.

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