Cricket: Kiwis home from home

BY JOHN COLLIS AT SOUTHAMPTON Hampshire 135-6 New Zealand 169- 2 NZ win by 8 wkts (D/L)
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The Independent Online
NEW ZEALAND tuned up for the World Cup campaign with an emphatic win over Hampshire in an abbreviated contest.

In the afternoon they must have regarded any play as a bonus, because the rain that swirled in at lunchtime seemed capable of lasting until the competition is over.

Some of the squads must be wondering why this week's matches are called "warm-ups". Cricket could hardly have been colder or more blustery than it was at Southampton yesterday morning, as if the recent Bank Holiday heat wave had been a cruel illusion. The Press tent creaked and swayed like the crows' nest of the Hispaniola, and New Zealand, having chosen to bowl, took to the field billowing like green Michelin men.

The world's batsmen need solid practice on early-season British turf - though the World Cup is often a batsman's contest, the greasy conditions here could set problems for the top-order batsmen.

The Kiwis, however, with their stingy bowling and exhilarating batting, treated yesterday as if it was just another breezy day in Dunedin. Of the Test-playing countries, they start at longer odds than any bar Zimbabwe, but they did not behave like it yesterday.

Their mixed bowling attack is typified by Chris Harris. At first sight he looks like third change in a weekend club match, on the slow side of medium and "doing a bit".

But each over 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 quite dared to take him on. His deserved reward came when Will Kendall, well set at the crease, skied desperately to cover.

On a flat, bouncy wicket the New Zealand pace pairing of left-armer Geoff Allott and Dion Nash, once of Middlesex, were often pushing the ball through at throat height, but with no gift of width for the batsmen.

It was Allott who delivered a double blow in his fourth over, winning lbw decisions against Giles White and Robin Smith. After necessary regrouping by Hampshire, even the naturally belligerent wicket-keeper batsman Adrian Aymes found it hard to step up a gear, though at least he ensured that the hosts posted a decent target.

After the rain and the consultations with the Duckworth-Lewis slide rule, Hampshire had 11 balls of attempted mayhem in what was now a 39-over match, and with all 10 wickets to burn the Kiwis were requested to make 33 runs more than Hampshire for victory.

As Matt Horne and Nathan Astle punched and drove past the 100-mark, this turned from challenge to formality. John Stephenson's medium-paced wobblers caused a frisson when he removed both openers but with Craig McMillan clipping almost a run a ball and the left-handed skipper Stephen Fleming not only back from injury but seemingly in Rolls Royce form, New Zealand announced that they are not here to make up the numbers.