Cricket: Gower's bad timing

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The Independent Online
Kent. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .275

Hampshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20-0

THANKS TO David Gower, it was some crack. Not that he ever waved a bat in anger here, but because half of Fleet Street and the England manager descended upon May's Bounty yesterday hoping to see him do just that. The trouble was that Gower was grounded with a cracked rib.

Which took everybody by surprise and while half of Fleet Street then packed its bags and departed, Keith Fletcher at least stuck around long enough to see one high-class innings. Even then the manager was as out of pocket as some were out of stories.

Unfortunately from an England point of view, Kent's Carl Hooper happens to be West Indian and however handsome his half-century might have been, it counted for nothing. No, Gower's name was back in the frame while England considered their options for next week's second Test against Australia at Lord's.

With Shane Warne's leg breaks to counter, the left-hander's 153 at Trent Bridge had set the wires humming. What was not known, though, was that Gower had fallen on a ball when fielding in the slips during Hampshire's first victory of the season against Nottinghamshire.

And yesterday, following an X-ray, he failed an early-morning fitness test. He still wants to play in the Sunday League match, mind, the scene of his biggest century last summer which eventually saw him recalled to face Pakistan. As to the later setback, Gower said: 'The timing's not exactly perfect, is it?'

As for Fletcher, he could only say: 'It's a bit of a pity. I didn't know until I got here that he was injured. Certainly he's one of the players in our thoughts.'

So, too, are a pair of Kent fast bowlers. But Alan Igglesden (groin strain) and Martin McCague (hamstring) were also missing the action here, Kent deciding to bat after winning the toss.

They were going strongly, too, with Hooper (69) and Neil Taylor (57) putting on 120 for the third wicket in 26 overs. Hampshire, though, came back strongly, Shaun Udal following up his 10-wicket haul in the Nottinghamshire match with 4 for 43 to keep Kent from breaking 300.