Rampant Hampshire race to victory
Hampshire 353 and 154 (Kaneria 5-68) beat Essex 158 and 235 (Napier 51*, Taylor 5-73, Udal 4-55) by 114 runs at Chelmsford
Hampshire wrapped up their fourth Championship win of the season shortly after tea on the third day, thanks to a dominant bowling display that never allowed Essex into the match. Hampshire, cricket's yo-yo team with two relegations and one promotion in four seasons, will be confident of bouncing back up again: but for Essex, it was a demoralising defeat. They have yet to win in eight Championship games, and will be fighting to avoid the wooden spoon with Derbyshire, Durham and Somerset.
Hampshire's strength lies in their bowling. Without the injured Alan Mullally, their attack looked thin on paper, but Billy Taylor, an inspired signing from Sussex in the winter, took his first five-wicket haul and was well supported by the seamers Chris Tremlett and Dimitri Mascarenhas. As for the spinners, Shaun Udal seems to have recaptured some of the form that landed him an England one-day place in the mid-1990s, while Shane Warne remains one of the best bowlers in the world.
If Hampshire are to push for the top spot, however, then their batsmen need to support the bowlers. John Crawley - out for 97 in the first innings - hasn't scored a century since his double-hundred on debut for Hampshire in 2002, while Michael Clarke, who showed what he is capable of with a dominant 69 in the first innings, is still a few big knocks away from fully justifying his hype.
Essex needed early wickets to mount any kind of challenge, and Darren Gough has always been the man for a challenge. Fresh from his 27th five-wicket haul in the first innings, Gough belied his age to pick up Nic Pothas and Taylor with two world-class deliveries; Pothas's defences were beaten by pace while Taylor got stuck in Geoffrey Boycott's favourite corridor and James Foster took a simple catch. But Warne's 34 from 29 balls, including four fours and a six, took the match away from Essex.
Will Jefferson and Alastair Cook set off in pursuit of the 350 needed to win as if they were chasing 50, and rushed to 48 in a flurry of boundaries as Taylor and Tremlett took the punishment. With only 15 minutes to go before lunch, the Essex faithful would have been thinking of the stirring run-chases that had been the feature of their promotion in 2002.
By lunch that season was a distant memory, and so were the top three, who were dismissed in the space of eight runs. Jefferson was first to go, lbw to a straight one from Taylor. Andy Flower soon followed without scoring, edging behind to Michael Brown off his first-innings tormentor, Udal. And Cook, who hasn't passed 25 since his maiden Championship century six innings ago, fell to Taylor just before lunch.
And it was Taylor who also did the damage after lunch, removing Foster and James Middlebrook with successive inswinging deliveries that both piled into the stumps. Udal took the last three wickets, with only Graham Napier hanging in defiantly for an unbeaten 51. The Hampshire attack was so dominant that Warne gave himself only four overs. He'll be hoping that this will be a luxury he can afford for the rest of the season.