Cricket: Hampshire block revolution

Lancashire 569-8 dec & 255-9 dec Hampshire 412-4 dec Match drawn
Click to follow
The Independent Online
It was a toss-up as to what was more interesting: the members' forum in the morning or what little play the weather permitted. Both were anti-climactic. Warren Hegg's half-century, his third of the summer, as Lancashire batted on to ensure a draw, would have pleased their contingent.

Captain Mike Watkinson, rightly, felt that there was little profit in inviting Hampshire to chase; when play finally got under way at 2.30 with Lancashire 260 runs in front, there was still a minimum of 51 overs to be bowled, but the time-overs-runs equation was never going to be quite right on a flat track.

There was still some good cricket. Two wickets early on for James Bovill, including a fine catch by Adrian Aymes, who later pulled off a smart stumping, raised Hampshire hopes briefly, but Hegg sprayed enough shots around, including a six, in his season's best 77 and it petered out into a draw, with Lancashire reaching 255 for 9 declared.

So, apart from Bovill's 4 for 64 (a season's best), all that was left was the inconclusive forum for Hampshire to contemplate. The south coast seems to be undergoing some sort of cricketing revolution. Back in April, Sussex members succeeded in their coup down at Hove; yesterday, there was a whiff of rebellion in Southampton.

Supporters are understandably troubled at the club's lack of success, an alarming drop in membership numbers and the urgent need for a strike bowler. Retired fire officer George Pollock fanned the flames by obtaining 100 signatures to a petition demanding a special general meeting to look into the running of the club, so yesterday's forum looked like being combustible.

Perhaps it was the rain, maybe it was Hampshire's efforts in trying to make a game of it, but the expected conflagration never happened. By the end the mood of the 150 or so in the marquee was as placid as the pitch.

Mr Pollock made some valid points, but decided not to present the petition; chairman Brian Ford responded to questions with courtesy and patience. Members did have some legitimate grouses, but the committee were in full agreement with pretty well every point and said that the findings of a review into the club's running of the game would be made known to members.

Mr Ford fielded one or two awkward questions about the attitude of the players and the captaincy - "The jury is out on John Stephenson's leadership," Pollock said - but there was none of the anticipated third degree. In the end there was more passion over the standard of stewarding (poor, according to some members) than there was over the lack of success for the last three years.

Coach Malcolm Marshall and Stephenson were sniped at briefly, Marshall because of his enforced absence at the start of the season when the West Indies arranged a last-minute Test series against Sri Lanka, but the club have had an assurance that no tour will follow England's visit next winter.

As for Stephenson, it would appear it is his body language and demeanour which irritate the most. "He makes Michael Atherton look positively cheerful," member Tony Perks said. No dramatic motions though, just two sides having to go through them out in the middle.