Cricket: Gower cuts himself out: Glenn Moore reports from Southampton

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Australians 393-7 dec; Hampshire 73-2

THE preamble took more than six hours, the main act just 24 minutes and at the end of it England's most entertaining batsman of the last 20 years left the stage after facing his old foes for possibly the penultimate time.

David Gower will get a second chance against Australia here but experience of the personalities involves suggests that when the selectors name the third Test side tomorrow Gower will not be included. Yesterday evening, against an Australian side that has nailed England's alleged top six batsman to the floor, he missed the chance to make an irresistible claim for a place.

After Australia, scoring at will, had run up 393 for 7 declared Hampshire, given 45 minutes batting, lost Paul Terry to the third ball of the innings. Enter Gower.

He came out to face Merv Hughes and looped his third ball off the splice to drop tantilisingly short of Matt Hayden at gully as Hampshire's biggest crowd of the season held its breath. It was more than an over later when he faced his fourth ball, also from Hughes, and hooked it high to the square-leg boundary to 4,000 whoops of delight.

The shot brought back memories of the dismissal that cost him a Test place two years ago, Adelaide 1991, when Hughes caught him at square-leg seconds before lunch on the third day with Graham Gooch apoplectic at the non-stiker's end. It suggested Gower was out to re-establish his credentials.

Unfortunately all he did was to demonstrate his enduring frailty. Having late-cut Brendon Julian, straining for a Test place, for another boundary he cut uppishly at Hughes and was held chest high by Damien Martyn. The ground groaned. They were lifted by Gower's replacement, Robin Smith, who easily despatched Hughes and Julian for a series of boundaries. But then we all know he relishes the quicks - at Nottingham Shane Warne will be back.

Earlier the Australians had been busy doing what they love best, making runs against the Poms with Hampshire's bowlers joining a long and none too impressive list of victims. David Boon tucked in most eagerly, scoring his fifth century in nine tour innings, while Matt Hayden, a man condemned to spend the rest of the tour knocking vainly on the Test door, fell 15 short.

A few days before making his well-chronicled culinary observation last week, Rod Marsh said Ian Chappell deliberately got out in these matches because he was too bored to bat. At times yesterday it seemed nothing had changed, David Boon charging up the pitch to swat Shaun Udal, and Mark Taylor being out the ball after sweeping him for six.

More relevant was Steve Waugh's failure. While England's selection meetings are never finished before last orders Australia can pick their side in the time it takes to pass round a six-pack. Only two places are in doubt, a replacement for McDermott - to be disputed by Brendon Julian and Paul Rieffel today - and the No 6 batting spot. Fortunately for Waugh, the man in possession, Martyn also wasted the to press his case yesterday.

For Hampshire Kevan James had a good late spell, taking three wickets and Udal stuck at his task, having Taylor caught at slip, Hayden at backward short-leg and Boon, on 91, dropped at mid-wicket - the first of four dropped catches. But with Malcolm Marshall resting, Australia largely batted as they pleased. Despite the lure of Tetley Bitter's pounds 4,000 only two overseas players have turned out against the tourists and without them the counties cannot compete.