Shafayat and Adams lead Hampshire renaissance
Hampshire 352 for 8 (Adams 122, Shafayat 93) v Derbyshire
Some counties wait all season for a successful comeback but Hampshire had two in a day here, with Bilal Shafayat making 93 and Jimmy Adams pressing on to 122 after the hosts had been stuck in on what appeared, at first sight, to be a seamer's dream of a pitch.
Shafayat's return to centre stage was especially remarkable, given that his Championship career looked as though it might have stalled, never to start again. Released by Notts at the end of the 2010 season, he played only second XI cricket last year and was signed up by Shropshire for their Minor Counties campaign this term. In some ways, though, Adams' innings was even more pleasing for Hampshire. Their captain missed the last two Championship games for undisclosed "personal reasons" and, before that, four innings had brought the opener only 24 runs.
Prospects did not look great for any batsman when, after two days of rain, the covers were removed this morning to reveal a green pitch. No wonder table-topping Derbyshire opted to bowl first - and no surprise, either, when Hampshire found themselves one down through Liam Dawson snicking a catch to second slip.
In truth, though, the hosts were not required to play nearly enough against the new ball and when they did find themselves pressed into action, it came off the surface so slowly that adjustments could be made. But, that said, the stand of 164 between Adams and Shafayat was still special enough to have home supporters purring with pleasure.
Shafayat looked to have the cricketing world ay his feet during the early stages of his career. He made a Championship debut for Notts in 2001, when still a week short of his 17th birthday, scoring an eye-catching 72. Soon enough, the youngster was not only playing for England Under-19s but also captaining them and huge things were expected. Somehow, though, Shafayat failed to kick on. A spell at Northamptonshire did not do the trick, nor did a return to Trent Bridge, and when Notts decided to let him go in 2010 he had averaged less than 12 across six Championship matches and his career figure was down to a distinctly modest 29.72.
Since then, Shafayat's only first-class cricket has been played in Pakistan but neither that nor a second XI double century for Hampshire last season had persuaded anyone over here to take a serious punt on him - until now. Hampshire decided to register the 27-year-old last Friday on a short-term basis and a combination of events this week (with Michael Carberry playing for England Lions and this game being reduced to a two-day affair, thereby encouraging the hosts to leave out a front-line bowler) brought about his selection.
It will take more than this knock - lasting 93 balls and containing 17 fours, many of which were clipped, turned and forced through the leg side - to remove 'riled Ricky Ponting' from the top of Shafayat's CV. But it's a good start. "I don't want that to be my only claim to fame," he said with a smile when reminded of how he annoyed Australia's captain while serving as England's 12th man during the tense final stages of the drawn 2009 Ashes Test in Cardiff.
Required, on two occasions, to take gloves and water to last pair Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar, Shafayat felt the rough edge of Ponting's tongue for playing his part in what the boys in Baggy Green saw as a dastardly time-wasting plot. Here, Shafayat appeared all set to celebrate a century until chasing a wide one from seamer Jonathan Clare to edge a catch behind. He left to warm applause but looked particularly disappointed, and understandably so.
As for Adams, he showed why his name was in the England frame not so long ago, producing a steady stream of straight and cover drives. His hundred was reached off 176 balls and the left-hander looked set for a big one until he was rightly sent back by Sean Ervine and run-out. Still, Hampshire's stall had been well and truly set out and, although wickets fell regularly during the second half of the day, the home side were more than happy with their 352 for eight. And they may be happier still if they can persuade Derbyshire to set up a contest on Saturday through the forfeiture route.
"I think they are keen but we'll talk again in the morning," Adams said. "We want to have an entertaining final day if we can and hopefully we'll have a game for everyone tomorrow."
And as for the two major run-makers? "It was pretty obvious I've been short of runs so it's nice for me to get back and make some," said Adams. "But I thought Bilal played magnificently and it was a pleasure to bat with him. He has scored buckets of runs for our second team, it was a great effort from him today and it gives us a few good headaches and some tough decisions for next week."