DAVID GOWER would doubtless have settled for scoring more than half of Hampshire's top order runs in his first Championship innings of the new season, but as an early argument for his return to the England team this summer, it might have carried slightly more weight had Hampshire's top order managed to cobble together something better than 5 for 5.
At least Gower has not lost his exquisite sense of timing. At the very moment he was doing (even by his standards) something particularly daft, the England selectors, closeted away at their captaincy meeting at Lord's, were not around to witness it. Had Keith Fletcher not been obliged to leave the County Ground on Thursday night, he would have seen Gower, bootlaces apparently tied together, plonk a Neil Mallender long hop straight to the fielder at cover point.
What would have been of even greater interest to an England selector, however, was the spell of bowling from the other end that was mostly responsible for Hampshire's brief flirtation with the lowest total in their history - 15 - in a match against Warwickshire in 1922 that Hampshire somehow contrived to win.
Despite Mark Nicholas leading a recovery of sorts to 140 for 8, they are still 211 runs short of avoiding the follow-on, and will be as hard pressed to repeat that achievement here as the England selectors will be to overlook Andrew Caddick for this summer's international programme.
Caddick's part in Hampshire's 5 for 5 was a spell of 4 for 3 in 17 balls, an even more bizarre statistic for the fact that it followed Somerset rattling up 146 runs in the hour and a quarter than preceded their lunchtime declaration at 500 for 6.
Caddick is such a dead ringer for his boyhood hero that if he and Richard Hadlee entered a Richard Hadlee lookalike contest, Hadlee would almost certainly come second. However, it is one thing to look like Hadlee and quite another to suggest that you might one day be regarded as almost as good a bowler.
As you would not at the moment attempt to pick England's bowling attack for the first Test without the assistance of a blindfold and pin, Caddick is a near certainty to make his international debut this summer, although the Somerset coach, Bob Cottam, would prefer this to be in a Test match rather than the Texaco series. Cottam's best bet is to ring the selectors with the information that Caddick bowls to get people out, a peculiar theory that has no place in a one- day international.
Caddick's four victims, it should be said, were as compliant in his success as Gower was in Mallender's. Tony Middleton turned one straight to short leg, Paul Terry played across the line, and Malcolm Marshall offered no shot. Sean Morris was the one unlucky victim, not only edging a high- class delivery, but also falling to a brilliant diving slip catch from Richard Harden.
Earlier, Somerset's wicketkeeper, Neil Burns, had managed to do what Harden and Mark Lathwell had both failed to do - negotiate his way through the nineties to the season's first Championship century - and a violent one (141 balls, 12 fours) it was, too.
He and Graham Rose got stuck into such a rare assortment of rubbish from Hampshire's bowlers, in particular from Kevin Shine, whose fuse was even shorter than his length, and whose one hostile delivery of the day came when he launched an angry boot into an advertising board.Reuse content