August 23, 2001

Johnson's century sustains Hampshire's promotion hopes

Neil Johnson's first Championship century for Hampshire re-kindled the promotion contenders' hopes of forcing victory at New Road.

The Zimbabwean all-rounder made 103 in almost four-and-a-quarter hours and enabled his hard-pressed side to match Worcestershire's first innings total of 247.

Hampshire then pressed hard for an advantage by capturing three early wickets and the home side will be looking for a big effort from Graeme Hick with their captain closing on 43 out of 88 for 3.

Their openers had fallen to James Schofield, who attended Worcester Royal Grammar School and appeared in Worcestershire's second team before finding a base in Southampton.

Anurag Singh edged to slip in Schofield's first over and Philip Weston drove to cover before Vikram Solanki top-edged Alex Morris for a sprawling catch by Jason Laney.

At that stage, seven wickets had gone for 40 runs in the crossover of two innings since Johnson departed. The sudden return of batting problems only underlined the value of his performance in guiding Hampshire from 38 for 4 to 232 for 7 when he was caught at cover off Andy Bichel.

The watchful left-hander had his moments with 14 fours and two sixes, but circumstances demanded that he should concentrate on survival.

Will Kendall was first to provide substantial assistance by reaching 36 before edging David Leatherdale to slip and Robin Smith took over his role with 26 in a partnership of 76.

Smith, coming in as low as No 7, gave a return catch to the accurate Chris Liptrot, who also removed Alex Morris for an impressive return of 3 for 43 in 22 overs.