Derbyshire v Hampshire, Derby, 1st day April 20, 2014

Will Smith very much alive and well

Hampshire 231 for 5 (Smith 70) vs Derbyshire
Scorecard

'Will Smith is dead' is one of the great hoaxes of the Internet. He has been misreported to have died in surgery in the United States and in a fall in New Zealand. There is barely a Twitter hoaxer alive who does not wake up one morning and think "Today, I will tell the world that Will Smith is dead." There are even hoaxes that there have been hoaxes. Such are the trappings of fame.

Will Smith, the Hampshire version, shares a name with the American actor if not a bank balance. As he possesses a quieter intelligence, that is not likely to change. But if he was not reported dead at the end of last season, he was certainly presumed to be ailing. Durham had won the Championship but Smith, a former captain just the wrong side of 30, was judged surplus to requirements after the silverware was lifted.

When Hampshire gave him a two-year contract, only a few days elapsed before the media enquired if he wanted to be captain again. He said he did not, although all it will take is a crisis for him to be reconsidered.

He wanted to make his mark as a batsman, to improve his status late in his career, and his judicious 70 on a breezy and largely chilly Easter Day at Derby represented a solid start, a step on the way in his own Pursuit of Happyness if unlikely to command quite as many DVD sales.

This was a job unlikely to attract an Internet hoaxer, in fact it will not always have held the attention of the Derbyshire faithful as they stared at the slate-grey skies in the hope of a milky sun, and a hat-trick from nowhere, or Wes Durston, but it was the sort of innings to gain dressing room respect.

He would have been frustrated, nevertheless, at the manner of his exit as he fell to the gentle left-arm spin of Chesney Hughes, pulling to midwicket the last ball before the second new-ball was due. If not quite a death, certainly a skipped heart beat in disappointment.

According to the Second Division table, which is still not as much embryonic as a gleam in the eye, this was top vs bottom: Hampshire lie top on accounts of having played two matches and winning one of them thanks in part to a hundred by Michael Carberry against Gloucestershire; Derbyshire are bottom, outdone by Alastair Cook at Chelmsford after routing Essex for a two-figure score in the first innings.

But in reality this is an important early-season joust between two likely promotion contenders, making it the sort of match on which to munch a sausage bap and contemplate the meaning of life, an appropriate Easter pursuit.

Derbyshire bowled wastefully in the morning, although that impression is also heightened by Carberry, who is an excellent leaver. He played well for 45 before leaving a little grumpily when Tony Palladino, in his first over against the breeze, had him lbw. "That'll tarnish your England chances," came a cry from the outer. It is best not to pause on an lbw at Derby: it deserves to be recognised as the ground where five-second bursts of spleen are more likely than most places.

Adams' inconsequential affair ended when he edged Mark Turner, the loosest of Derbyshire's attack, to the keeper, before the afternoon gave way to an earnest battle between Smith and the Derbyshire seamers, a colourless landscape lit up by floodlights for much of the day. It was the sort of contest where you dreaded Iain O'Brien, the former New Zealand bowler, who was commentating for the BBC, inviting you to share technical analysis of a mundane game from a press box square of the wicket and someway distant from the action.

In the Derbyshire club bookshop, a mid-afternoon refuge during a brief stoppage for rain, there was an air of excitement at the sudden arrival of as many as 42 second-hand copies of The Harold Rhodes Affair - Rhodes' own story of one of the great throwing storms in cricket history.

Rhodes, who has never entirely forgiven the events of half a century ago, was eventually judged to have had a hyper-extending arm but his England career was ruined. He would doubtless be judged innocent these days after extensive technological analysis judged his action to be within the 15-degree limit.

Quite why so many copies have suddenly become available was not made clear. Maybe Rhodes has cleared out his garage, always the sort of thing you attempt around Easter, unless you come to Derby, grab an extra layer of clothing out of the boot at lunchtime, and set your face into the wind to watch Will Smith prove that his heart is still beating.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • CodandChips on April 21, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    Another poor batting effort. And with just 3 front-line bowlers, I think we'll struggle to win, and even possibly draw this match.

  • Nutcutlet on April 21, 2014, 6:46 GMT

    If I want an early smile and inward titter on Easter Monday, then an on-form Hopps county report in the best blest traditions of our first class game is guaranteed to provide both... Great read! Thank you, DH.

  • CodandChips on April 21, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    Another poor batting effort. And with just 3 front-line bowlers, I think we'll struggle to win, and even possibly draw this match.

  • Nutcutlet on April 21, 2014, 6:46 GMT

    If I want an early smile and inward titter on Easter Monday, then an on-form Hopps county report in the best blest traditions of our first class game is guaranteed to provide both... Great read! Thank you, DH.

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  • Nutcutlet on April 21, 2014, 6:46 GMT

    If I want an early smile and inward titter on Easter Monday, then an on-form Hopps county report in the best blest traditions of our first class game is guaranteed to provide both... Great read! Thank you, DH.

  • CodandChips on April 21, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    Another poor batting effort. And with just 3 front-line bowlers, I think we'll struggle to win, and even possibly draw this match.