Cricket: Churchgives golden service

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The Independent Online
Hampshire 173 for 9 Gloucestershire 174 for 4 Gloucestershire win by 6 wkts

FIRE alarms kept going off at the County Ground in Bristol yesterday, bringing the fire brigade each time. They were false alarms. But the alarm bells have also been ringing throughout Hampshire's Benson & Hedges Cup campaign and in their case there appears to be real cause for concern. Unfortunately there is no fire brigade to rescue them. It is something they, and their new captain, Robin Smith, are going to have to work out themselves.

On yesterday's evidence they are not doing too well. They may have sold their Southampton ground for something in excess of pounds 5m, but right now Hampshire would probably happily exchange all of that for a few hundred runs. True, they did not lose that many wickets early on in their innings, but neither did they score that many runs. From one perspective they did get things right. John Stephenson opened the innings and stuck around for more than two hours. The pity of it was not that he scored so slowly, but that everyone else hardly scored at all.

Almost half the allocation of overs had been used up before anyone arrived at the crease with much idea of how to hit the ball off the square, but even Dimitri Mascarenhas had to apply a certain degree of caution. The two of them put on 54 for the fifth wicket, a face-saving stand, but on its own it really was not enough. Both of them eventually falling for identical scores of 53.

Hampshire did then pick up four early Gloucestershire wickets but, once the Gold Award winner Matthew Church joined the experienced Tony Wright, Hampshire were first shut out, then shot out. Church reached an immaculate half-century off 68 balls and, in only his second appearance in the competition, was 64 at the end. Wright adopted a John Stephenson role, more prudent, but he still reached his second half-century in successive innings, celebrating with a six the next ball. They posted a competition-record fifth-wicket stand of 127.

Hampshire had no one to match that in their innings. And when they realised that something needed to be done and began to hit out, they got out. The chief beneficiary was Michael Cawdron, who picked up 4 for 28. There was one unusual feature to the Gloucestershire side. The England wicketkeeper Jack Russell was picked as a batsman, Reggie Williams taking over behind the stumps. Russell had a mixed day, dropping a catch that he got both hands to, but taking another to dismiss Peter Hartley. He was then out for a duck.