Cricket: Harris shows enough guile

AT SOUTHAMPTON Hampshire v New Zealand
Click to follow
SOME OF the visiting World Cup squads must be wondering why this week's matches are called "warm-ups". It could hardly have been more cold and blustery than it was at Southampton yesterday morning, as if the recent Bank Holiday heatwave had been just a cruel illusion.

The press tent creaked and swayed like a crow's nest and New Zealand took to the field billowing like green Michelin men. They had chosen to bowl, and it soon paid off.

The world's batsmen need solid practice on early-season British turf, and though the World Cup is traditionally a batsman's competition the greasy conditions may swing the balance. If so New Zealand, no strangers to performing beneath threatening skies, could belie their outsider status - of the Test-playing countries, only Zimbabwe start at longer odds.

Their mixed attack is perhaps typified by Chris Harris who yesterday sent down 10 stingy overs. At first sight he represents third chance in a weekend club match, on the slow side of medium and "doing a bit". But in fact he disguises subtle changes of pace and flight and though he left an inviting hole in the field between deep mid-wicket and long off no Hampshire batsman - even when the sluggish scoring rate urgently needed a kick - could quite dare to take him on. His deserved wicket came when Will Kendall, who appeared well set and seeing the ball, skied desperately to cover.

On a flat, bouncy wicket the Kiwi opening attack, the left-armer Geoff Allott and Dion Nash, once of Middlesex, were pushing the ball through at up to throat height. It was Allott who delivered a double blow to the hosts in his fourth over, straightening the ball and winning lbw decisions against Giles White and Robin Smith.

After inevitable retrenchment Hampshire, even the naturally belligerent wicketkeeper-batsman Adrian Aymes found it hard to step up a gear against canny one-day line and length.

When sharp rain was blown in on the cold wind just before one o'clock Hampshire were scoring at less than three an over. Although the delay was brief the drizzle returned almost immediately. Aware of a sizeable crowd, as well as a duty to the visitors, the umpires kept play going until everyone was thoroughly soaked. The sky filled in after 37.1 overs and for a long while that seemed to be that.

But a wind brisk enough to freeze can also shift the most stubborn cloud, and eventually the Duckworth-Lewis slide rule decreed a 39-over contest at which point Hampshire's Derek Kenway and Dimitri Mascarenhas returned for 11 balls of attempted mayhem. They finished on 135 and, with all 10 wickets to burn, New Zealand were asked to make 168 from the same ration.

With one eye on the sky, Matt Horne and Nathan Astle set off at a blistering pace, putting on 102 for the first wicket before John Stephenson removed them both, in a knock that earlier had seemed very unlikely.