Cricket: Calculators ready to roll

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The Independent Online
Hampshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .271-9


THE DELIGHTS of this ground, watched over by the castle, were severely diluted by rain for a second successive day. Few dry labradors or picnic baskets have been sighted, and not a single Pimm's has yet been mixed in the members' marquee.

Still, the hospitality tents were in good voice. Rain rarely stops play there, or interrupts more serious matters in the captains' minds. Some mathematical somersaults will be needed today to foster a positive result.

A terminal downpour at tea-time was no surprise, because Sussex had fielded for half an hour in a steady downpour. The tannoy announcement that the players had returned to the pavilion because of 'the state of the pitch' was unusual, but rang true.

Sussex, having sportingly agreed to bowl on, did not want to begin their innings (whenever it might be) on anything but a dry surface. Sensibly, too, because Rajesh Maru had already been stung on the helmet by Franklyn Stephenson as the moisture freshened the pitch.

Playing in the rain resembled the Sunday League, and so did the frantic scuffle for the odd point or two. In the space of two balls, Sussex gained a fourth for bowling and Hampshire missed a third batting bonus.

Bobby Parks, having made a worthy 33, was ninth out, hitting across the line in search of a boundary, and Cardigan Connor's meaty blow to achieve the recycled aim with the last ball of the 100th over was two feet short - athletically fielded by Stephenson.

Other features were as few as the 41 overs bowled. Kevan James duly completed his seventh half-century of the season before swishing his bat in personal disappointment when driving a catch.

Malcolm Marshall, playing a typical forcing stroke, was caught at the wicket, and the game's redemption began to rest on the wet weather cure. Not the often-used bar-towel to dry the ball, but the forfeiture of Sussex's first innings and a brief flurry of runs in Hampshire's second, with a target then set.

A better weather forecast today also promotes this plan, which appropriately holds water. Scoring quickly on this slow pitch demands technique and good fortune. The mistimed drive has been a recurring mode of dismissal, and Hampshire should fancy their chances of winning if Sussex are fully committed to the chase.

David Capel's first century for almost two years helped to steer Northamptonshire to maximum batting points and a first-innings total of 312 for 8 declared on a wet day against Surrey at The Oval. Capel fell to Martin Bicknell - he returned a season's-best 6 for 107 for Surrey, who were 62 without loss at the close.