August 26, 2001

Francis steers Hampshire to thrilling win over Worcestershire

Hampshire scrambled a two-wicket victory at New Road to join Glamorgan and Worcestershire in three-way tie on 34 points behind Second Division leaders Durham.

The promotion race is so close that a Worcestershire success would have sent them to the top but now their chances are in the balance after a third successive game without win.

In a match reduced to 32 overs by rain during Worcestershire's innings of 141 for 5, Hampshire survived an early storm against Andy Bichel and Alamgir Sheriyar before reaching a revised target of 166.

Their matchwinner was 20-year-old John Francis with a remarkably authoritative 78 in his second appearance in the Norwich Union League.

The Loughborough University student, who scored 107 against Leicestershire in April, went for his shots straight away after launching a stand of 58 with Neil Johnson from an awkward position at 17 for 3 in the sixth over.

Johnson (31) and Giles White (21) were both caught in the deep as Hampshire clattered along until the pressure built up with the loss of three wickets in the last three overs. It was then left to Francis to scramble a single off the last ball from Bichel.

Worcestershire had problems at the outset. James Schofield took a wicket with his first ball in the competition and Johnson's second slip catch brilliantly accounted for Graeme Hick in a spell of 2 for 11 by Dimitri Mascarenhas.

The rain broke up a recovery partnership of 65 by Vikram Solanki and David Leatherdale, but despite losing two wickets to Shaun Udal, the home side smashed 65 from balls on the resumption. Solanki was unbeaten with 65 including four fours and two sixes.