v South Africa
EVEN the most committed Hampshire member turned up to watch the touring South Africans rather than their own under-strength team here yesterday. This is just as well. Hampshire's batsmen were dour, grinding out 263 for eight off 104 overs.
But it was not a wasted day, by any means. There was menacing fast bowling from Allan Donald, who took five wickets for 49 in 20 overs and will get many more this summer. The fielding was often compelling, and there was a frenetic performance by Jonty Rhodes.
Mike Procter, South Africa's coach, was mildly surprised that Donald did not get more movement on a moist morning after an overnight storm. Donald's pace was, however, a satisfactory substitute for lateral movement. He can bowl faster, and will, but he was too fast for most of Hampshire's batsmen and for his own slip fielders, who dropped two catches off his bowling.
The field set for him hardly changed throughout the day - three of four slips, one or two at gully, and Rhodes dancing around at point.
Hampshire's batsmen fought back manfully, mainly by ducking and weaving. But it would be churlish not to admire them, especially Paul Terry, who took the few opportunities available and had two sixes and nine fours in his 75. Rupert Cox was dropped at seven but batted bravely for 46 and deserved 50.
The rest of the middle order accumulated decent scores without ever threatening to take control. On a domestic note, there was a promising debut by a 22-year-old recruit from Somerset named Giles White. Donald tried some good-natured intimidation, but White was unmoved, scoring 30 before skying a steeply rising ball to the wicketkeeper.
Apart from the dropped slip catches, the fielding was a highlight of a day of mixed fortunes for South Africa (while the pace bowling was good, and Brian McMillan was unlucky not to take a wicket, the spinners were hardly threatening at all). Andrew Hudson was properly applauded for a long dive to stop a boundary by the sight screen; then there was Rhodes.
Rhodes is a charismatic Christian but he performs like a whirling dervish. As the players came on to the field he pleaded with Dicky Bird to let him have the new ball like a small boy who loves the feel of it in his hands. Because of his enthusiastic swooping and diving, he had to change both his shirt and his trousers at lunchtime.
Procter has enjoyed this leisurely start to the tour along the south coast. It has allowed him to try all his bowlers and to persevere with young batsman Daryll Cullinan, despite a miserable start. He just wishes the opponents would score a bit faster.
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