Cricket: The Gower and the glory

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Hampshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .233-4


IT WAS heading towards one of those days, a morning lost to overnight rain and then cricket of the stonewall variety once the sun came out. The locals were either nodding off or growing restless and no wonder, Hampshire deciding to bat but Tony Middleton and Paul Terry managing to raise only 55 off the first 30 overs. On the Richter Scale there was no hint of a blip.

'At this rate we'll be lucky to raise 100 by the close,' a spectator said. Oh ye of little faith. While two hours of Middleton, in which he made 28 and found the boundary just once, meant that the grumbler had a point, it would have been an injustice had he departed before witnessing one of those innings people pay and pray for.

Yes, David Gower arrived and a depleted Lancashire attack was soon suffering and there is a chance of more to come. Gower made 81 from 118 balls by the close and included in the elegant strokemaking were 11 fours plus a six off Alex Barnett that sailed over midwicket and disappeared out of the ground.

Michael Atherton, England's new captain, had a close-range view of all this, of course, but then Lancashire, lying 12th in the Championship four rungs up on Hampshire, hardly resemble the current Australians. Indeed, they were even missing Wasim Akram, who was visiting a specialist with a rib-muscle injury.

Lancashire may be without Wasim here, but they are also concerned about next season and the absence of their Pakistani pace man for the tour of Sri Lanka beginning in July. Lancashire have already contacted the Test and County Cricket Board and asked for the rule restricting counties to one overseas player to be looked into.

As for the moment, they were certainly feeling the pinch without Wasim and know what to expect when he makes his departure. Terry's half-century came first and Robin Smith had made 38 by the time he shouldered arms to one from Phil DeFreitas that hit off-stump. Gower and Mark Nicholas then added 70 in 20 overs for the fourth wicket, the earlier stonewalling just a memory from the past.

Paul Taylor and Kevin Curran both claimed their 50th first- class wickets of the season as Northamptonshire restricted Durham to 120 for 5 on a rain-hit day at Northampton. Taylor reached the landmark by having Graeme Fowler caught at second slip, and Curran followed him when he forced the nightwatchman, Simon Hughes, to play on.

Andy Caddick and Neil Mallender shot out Derbyshire for 135 at Derby. The Somerset pace pair exploited a green, seaming pitch to take five wickets each. Somerset closed on 79 for 0.