Cricket: Hampshire's cause is undermined by Gower

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The Independent Online
247-6 v Yorkshire

THANKS to the weather it was back to three-day cricket - much of it, it must be said, at four-day pace here. There was a time, though, through a combination of sight and sound when spectators were ready to applaud their Hampshire heroes, what with Robin Smith clattering the Australians to all parts of Edgbaston and David Gower threatening to plunder the Yorkshire bowling at the County Ground.

Visually, it was generally not so good. Tony Middleton made 46 but spent nearly 47 overs accumulating his runs. Things perked up when Gower arrived but then he threw away his wicket.

Mark Nicholas, meanwhile, could not seem to satisfy the customers even when straight-driving handsomely for four, a remark from the crowd resulting in a long, hard stare. It was worth one, too, because in all fairness the Hampshire captain has played pretty well so far this season.

Nicholas, after all, had top-scored with 51 and 47 while wickets were tumbling in the Somerset rout and yesterday he was into his stride again once Gower had committed suicide. The score was then 91 for 2 and Middleton was quite within his right to refuse the single. Gower made 28 and Nicholas had lifted his own score to the same level and the total to 161 when an earlier blow on the hand, the result of a delivery from Mark Robinson, led to him retiring hurt. With Malcolm Marshall soon out, Yorkshire were beginning to get on top.

They had won the toss and, with 132 overs lost to the weather, were hoping to take advantage of a greenish-looking wicket when play got underway after midday. There were five seamers, two of them making their Championship debuts, and it was one of them who made the initial breakthrough just before lunch.

Indeed, for the 20-year-old Michael Foster this was his first first-class match and he opened with a wicket-maiden by having Paul Terry leg before for 24. It was the slow left-armer Richard Stemp who bowled Middleton and he kept in the act by catching out Marshall for Foster's second wicket and removing Jon Ayling.

As for repairing the damage, this was down to Adrian Aymes and Shaun Udal, who put together a half-century partnership in 18 overs.

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