Cricket: Botham's son dons father's mantle: David Llewellyn sees the young pretender mark his debut with four wickets

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THE KING may be dead but no one has told his scriptwriter. On the day that Durham declared Ian Botham's innings closed for good - not even a Sunday afternoon outing - the son of the legend took over the hero's mantle at Southampton.

Yesterday morning, Durham's director of cricket, Geoff Cook, announced: 'Ian Botham has played his last game for us. Now we can concentrate on building for the future.'

By mid-afternoon, at the other end of the country, the first scene of Botham - The Legend II, starring the 6ft, 13 1/2 st Liam, had been shot and passed fit for viewing.

As debuts go, the 15-year-old Liam's 4 for 63 off 18 overs for the Hampshire Second XI was close to perfect. His accurate swing bowling helped restrict Worcestershire's counterparts to 269, promising much for the next two months he is with the county.

His nagging line and length brought praise from the watching Mark Nicholas, Hampshire's first-team captain, who said: 'All the signs of a tremendous talent are there.' But Nicholas added that 30 to 40 young hopefuls come on trial each year and that perhaps two in three years make it.

There were certainly echoes of his old man in the way Liam mixed up the offerings. And, like his father, he moves the ball through the air away from the right-hander. His first wicket in senior cricket, though, was a left-hander, Adam Seymour, who has two first-class hundreds to his name.

That wicket fell before lunch and after Botham had given a press conference with all the aplomb of a seasoned pro as he explained his reasons for choosing Hampshire. 'My dad has never played here. I want to make my own way . . . there's a lot of experience in the club which is going to bring my game on by leaps and bounds.'

His first ball, of perfect length, came just before midday, the first wicket at 12.29. But it was following the lunch interval that the Botham magic made an appearance.

Worcestershire were fielding two sons of former Test players themselves - Samir Ahmed, whose father Younis played for Pakistan, Surrey, Worcestershire and Glamorgan, and Andrew Pollock, offspring of Graeme, the South African batting genius.

It thus seemed apt that Samir should be the first victim of a Botham spell of 3 for 11 in 22 deliveries. By the time Tim Edwards and Alex Barr had fallen Botham had taken 4 for 52.

It was unfortunate that he had to return for a third spell because his two overs cost 11 runs for no wicket. But by then Botham Jnr had done enough to ensure that there should be plenty of work ahead for the scriptwriter.

(Photograph omitted)