Hampshire aim to take charge without Warne

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The Independent Online

Despite various problems, not least some form on the field that has been less than electrifying, Hampshire insist that Shane Warne has been full value for his £100,000 contract, although they will hope to contradict their own claims by reaching the NatWest Trophy final without him today.

Despite various problems, not least some form on the field that has been less than electrifying, Hampshire insist that Shane Warne has been full value for his £100,000 contract, although they will hope to contradict their own claims by reaching the NatWest Trophy final without him today.

In the words of Robin Smith, the Hampshire captain, the Australian with the unfortunate telephone habits has been "worth every penny he has earned", even though Hampshire face double relegation. If, as Smith says, "having Warney here has given such a lift to the side", it seems reasonable to assume his absence from today's semi-final against Warwickshire leaves the south coast side on a hiding to nothing.

Warne, stripped of the Australian vice-captaincy following some uninvited mobile phone calls to a Leicester nurse, misses the Edgbaston match to prepare for the Australia-South Africa one-day series in Melbourne. However, Bob Woolmer, the Warwickshire coach, warns that victory for his side should not be taken as read.

"Shane is a marvellous cricketer but quite often when a key player is missing it spurs the others on to show what they can do," Woolmer said.

Warwickshire have their own problems, however, with the bowler Ed Giddins ruled out by a back injury and the batsman Michael Powell doubtful.

Nonetheless, Nick Knight and Ashley Giles both have NatWest hundreds to their name and Allan Donald, who opted out of the Melbourne tournament before the season began, will spearhead their attack. Hampshire will be relying on the rich form of the England bowler Alan Mullally and the all-rounder Dimitri Mascarenhas.

Their coach Jimmy Cook is upbeat. "We have been playing better lately and if our batsmen can get the runs our bowling will be equal to the task even without Warne," he said.

Australia have also called up the Gloucestershire all-rounder Ian Harvey, whose absence from the second semi-final at Bristol tomorrow, when Lancashire provide the opposition, increases the likelihood of the West Country side's outstanding run in knock-out cricket being terminated.

Gloucestershire, holders of both Benson and Hedges and NatWest trophies after winning the last three Lord's finals, face a Lancashire side in peak confidence. Having seen off Surrey in the quarter-finals, courtesy of Andy Flintoff's extraordinary 135, the more traditional one-day specialists dominated yesterday's dress rehearsal against Gloucestershire in the National League.

Furthermore Flintoff, rested yesterday, will be back tomorrow ready to perform with ball as well as bat after a cortisone injection in his troublesome back injury. "The injection is primarily a diagnostic tool," the coach Bobby Simpson said. "But Andy invariably improves after any jab, so he'll be able to bowl as well as bat."

John Bracewell, his opposite number at Bristol, reckons he has more to worry about than one player. "The one I'd rate as their danger man is Neil Fairbrother," he said. "He has been there and done it many times and I have massive respect for him."

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