Cricket: Handsford's trial all worthwhile

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Hampshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .152-4


TRYING to force the ball away on a slow pitch was as difficult for the Hampshire batsmen amid rain interruptions as it was securing a feature interview with Malcolm Marshall, their most eminent bowler, yesterday.

It proved impossible to obtain a few minutes of Marshall's time in order to ascertain his innermost feelings - or indeed any feelings - about his first Lord's final appearance on Saturday week, 11 July, in the Benson and Hedges Cup final against Kent.

This was a day of multiple frustrations for all and sundry, with 46 overs lost to the weather and a turgid first-wicket partnership between showers of 46 between Tony Middleton and Paul Terry, occupying 27 overs. Kevan James offered consolation with 48 not out.

The sabre-rattling in the middle, with every run vigorously contested, still had nothing on the clatter of cutlery being washed up in several hospitality marquees and put into trays in the back of the press tent. Even the kindness of giving us smoked salmon sandwiches was confusing - whether they were to be eaten or put in each ear.

Ironically, those being entertained in adjacent marquees could have heard a pin drop in the otherwise cloistered calm of a timeless setting. Indeed, the match seemed timeless on a ground which had not surprisingly failed to produce a positive result in its two previous Championship games.

The four wickets were shared among John North, Franklyn Stephenson and Alan Handsford, a medium pace bowler whose low centre of gravity and shuffling run-up resembles that of Ken Higgs late in his career. Handsford, released at the end of last summer, is now approaching the end of a renewed three- month trial after being reinstated to supplement a small playing staff.

Handsford dismissed Terry and Julian Wood with catches at short mid-wicket by David Smith, who also took Mark Nicholas at slip, but the day's abiding feeling was imperfection, despite the familiar arboreal delights and the aerobatics of the swallows.