Cricket: Hard times for Durham

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The Independent Online
Hampshire. . . . . . . . . . . . .289-3


IT WAS a tribute to the labours of the ground staff that the players here had to miss the second half of the Cup Final. Even at midday parts of Stockton Cricket Club's ground still resembled marshland.

This was the result of a late and particularly nasty dose of winter that emptied three inches of rain in 21 hours on this corner of Teesside. It could have been worse. A few miles to the north, motorists had been digging their cars out of Maytime snowdrifts.

When play started at 4.15 yesterday afternoon a full six sessions - half the match - had been lost, although this did not seem enough for some. Simon Hughes certainly gave the impression that bowling in a vicious cross-wind was not his idea of fun and 17 runs conceded in three overs earned him a swift removal from the attack with which he did not appear to argue.

Anderson Cummins, the Antiguan pace bowler making his first championship appearance, sent out for hand warmers but then did not need them, citing a thigh strain as his reason for staying in the dressing room.

It was the kind of day when a fatal waft from David Gower could actually have been forgiven on humanitarian grounds. But there was no lack of enthusiasm from England's most celebrated discard, which suggests that if he was not merely striving to avoid frostbite, he really is serious about regaining his place against the Australians.

Mainly cutting and occasionally pulling, Gower collected half a dozen fours in an hour to complete his first half-century of the season, doubling the score at which he was marooned on Thursday before smiting a full toss from David Graveney to Graeme Fowler at midwicket.

Water had seeped under the covers and Graveney made more than one delivery fizz through at nostril height as well as turn. Whether this was what inhibited Paul Terry was not clear. In contrast to Gower, he took an hour to add two singles to Thursday's 82 but then perversely reached his century with two successive fours.

Terry fell to a top-edged sweep as Hampshire reached a useful 273 for 3, but it was difficult to see where the match was going to go.

Ian Botham gave the Durham committee a heart-stopping moment when he stood up with difficulty after taking the catch and appeared to have injured his knee, but happily was able to continue.