Cricket: Captain Nash leads by example

New Zealand 370-9 dec Hampshire 238-5
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The Independent Online
FEW SIDES have given away a Test match quite so readily as New Zealand at Edgbaston. They invited the burglars in, showed the way to the family jewels, wrapped them in gold leaf paper and waved a fond farewell. For the tourists' good, not to mention that of the game at large, it would be as well if they regrouped swiftly. Only England behave like that.

Thus, the two weeks and two first-class matches before the start of the Second Test at Lord's have assumed a greater significance, though not, perhaps, to the disinterested public for this is necessarily a tour being played at low key after the World Cup. They made a woeful start against Hampshire on the first day, none of their first five batsmen reaching 30.

Considering that the county had rested five players, including two leading seamers, Nixon MacLean and Peter Hartley, and had Alex Morris absent through injury, the shortcomings of New Zealand's performance were compounded. That they recovered from the abject level of 56 for 5 was thanks to their acting captain, Dion Nash, who was effective with both bat and ball.

He converted his third hundred, completed on the first evening, into his career best score in the morning yesterday and later in the proceedings tore into the Hampshire upper order with swing bowling which they were fully prepared to touch behind. He is beginning to look a fully rehabilitated cricketer.

His finest moment came on New Zealand's tour of England five years ago when he took 11 wickets and scored a half-century in the Lord's Test. England held on, just, for a draw, otherwise it would have gone down in the annals as Nash's match. The world was his oyster then but it was pretty soon transformed into a dodgy prawn.

On the New Zealand tour of South Africa the following winter there were a series of shenanigans. Nash was one of several players in trouble for using recreational drugs. It all sounded extremely hip if they were rock musicians but it did little for their status as cricketers.

The following summer, Nash played for Middlesex, doubtless hired largely on the strength of his endeavours at Lord's. He acquitted himself adequately, but the next season limped out of action early, out of form and beset by back trouble. It could have been a slow descent from there but Nash has fought back and is here as vice-captain.

Maybe it is the prospect of returning to Lord's which is inspiring him. He was in free-flow yesterday as he and Simon Doull carved away in the first session. The tourists made 96 in the first 70 minutes before declaring, 24 of which came in one seven-ball over from Simon Renshaw - six, one, four, four, a leg bye, four wides, four. Nash struck the first ball for a straight six out of the ground and the last high wide of midwicket.

Doull whacked a couple of sixes over cow corner and then holed out to deep midwicket. The New Zealanders declared, leaving Hampshire needing 221 to save the follow on.

Jason Laney was caught down the leg side in the second over and they had not made much further progress to their initial target when Nash made several more interventions. Will Kendall swished carelessly at the first ball after lunch to give Martyn Croy a second catch behind.

The reserve wicketkeeper pouched a third when Derek Kenway edged on the forward push and Matthew Keech nicked the next ball to second slip. Nash had taken care of Hampshire's KKK but Giles White and John Stephenson restored their fortunes. It was not spectacular but they put on 165 for the fifth wicket. White made his first century of the season from 176 balls with 10 fours and Stephenson registered a half-century as they saved the follow-on. As the opening pair in six matches earlier this season they did not pass 33.