New game leaves Wasim bewildered

Hampshire 153 Sussex 148-7 Hampshire win by five runs
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The Independent Online

Heaven knows what Wasim Akram, the 37 year-old veteran of 356 one-day internationals and 104 Test matches made of it all. On his debut in Twenty20 cricket the Pakistani all-rounder, who is spending the summer as one of the Hampshire Hawks two overseas players, slogged a quick 10 with the bat before being hacked at by the Sussex Sharks top order.

To his credit the batsmen were not good enough to get the better of him and Akram finished with the respectable figures of 2 for 23 in his allotted four overs. This and the Hawks five-run victory would have gone some way towards making up for being introduced as Simon Katich when he came out to bat. Never before in his illustrious career can he have played in such a frantic game but surely a man with 916 international wickets to his name deserved better than this.

What he thought of it all, however, is irrelevant. It is the view of the 8,500 spectators who attended the Rose Bowl in Southampton that count. Akram, like the other 21 players, was here to put on a show and to a large extent they did. The crowd were kept interested right up to the last ball of the game by the frenetic action taking place and a late Sussex fightback. The majority left smiling, however, following the home side's win.

The weather and the setting could not have been better for this inaugural Twenty20 match and the fact that a large number of the crowd were female and young will have delighted the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Even the fact that a high proportion departed at the conclusion of the game, and failed to stay for the concert, will have failed to knock the gloss of a successful first night. That it did not matter to some whether Mis-Teeq, D-Side and the United Colours of Sound were about to perform is encouraging because these groups will not be at the cricket too often, but the ECB needs the punters to return.

How good an evening the near-full house crowd had will only be seen during the Hawks two remaining fixtures here at the Rose Bowl. If demand for tickets remains as high as they have been for this game the ECB will feel they are on a winner. They were certainly feeling up beat last night after reporting that more than 30,000 people had turned up to the five matches played around the country.

In the game the Hawks would have been disappointed with their score of 153 all out following the start they were given by their two opening batsmen, James Hamblin and Derek Kenway. Both rode their luck but played some pleasant strokes in an opening partnership of 66 in eight overs.

Placed on 91 for 2 at the halfway stage, the home side would have been hoping for a total somewhere near 200. However, a collapse which saw the Hawks lose eight wickets for 62 runs in nine overs meant they were always within the Sharks range.

For the Hawks, even in this shortened version of a shortened game, the challenge of batting out their allotted 20 overs proved too much when the were dismissed with two balls remaining.

The Sharks reply worked in reverse to their opponents. After a dreadful start the visitors were reduced to 75 for 5 after 12 overs. With all their big-guns out, a last-ball finish looked a long way off at this stage.

However, thanks to some aggressive swiping from Tim Ambrose and good improvisation by Mushtaq Ahmed, the Sharks were given a chance. This effectively ended when Ahmed was bowled by Ed Giddins with the third ball of the last over.

A crowd of more than 4,000, some of them splashing in a hot tub, cheered a depleted Worcestershire Royals side to a one-wicket win against Northamptonshire Steelbacks at New Road.

No one enjoyed himself more than David Taylor, a 28-year-old left hander from Buckinghamshire who was drafted in by Worcestershire.

The High Wycombe club player held two good catches as Northamptonshire reached 150-9 and then hit 46 from only 20 balls. Taylor hit nine fours and a six before he was bowled by off-spinner Jason Brown to end an opening stand of 60 with Gareth Batty, but Worcestershire nearly let victory slip when paceman Ricky Anderson took 4 for 29.

The Royals wobbled at 84 for 6 but were rescued by a second debutant. Stephen Moore, a South African-born student at Exeter University who kept his head to reach an unbeaten 39.