West Indies draw full house

Whatever happened here yesterday, Hampshire were on to a winner. Even without Brian Lara, the touring West Indies can still pull them in. There are always enough big names in the line-up to whet the cricket-lover's appetite when the West Indies are in town.

Whatever happened here yesterday, Hampshire were on to a winner. Even without Brian Lara, the touring West Indies can still pull them in. There are always enough big names in the line-up to whet the cricket-lover's appetite when the West Indies are in town.

Curtly Ambrose may be eschewing the chance of taking part in the forthcoming triangular one-day tournament with England and Zimbabwe (he has been granted leave of absence for three weeks before returning to pick up the Test reins again), but his presence and that of Courtney Walsh, the world's leading Test wicket-taker, were major factors in putting more than 3,500 bums on seats at Northlands Road yesterday, thereby generating a county record, for a one-day game, of £25,000 in receipts.

And they were treated to a tight little game, which went to the wire, as well as a striking streaker, who had a lot of those bums off seats as she swung across the outfield.

The tourists, though, were always in control; it even appeared initially that the West Indies were toying with the county side, first with the ball, then with the bat.

After being put in to bat it took Hampshire five overs, or 16 minutes, whichever appears the longer, to score the first runs off the bat. Indeed, not until the occasional bowler Wavell Hinds was introduced after 13 overs of the Hampshire innings did the scoring really pick up.

Even then, had it not been for Dimitri Mascarenhas smashing an entertaining, if somewhat fortuitous fifty (he feasted off Hinds, seeing him out of the attack by thumping a six and three fours in the batsman's second over) off 65 balls, having been dropped in the deep on 38, then it all might have been over a lot earlier than it was.

In fact it could be said: had it not been for Mascarenhas, full stop, because, apart from his lively 52 there was also a well judged catch in the deep to dismiss the danger man and the West Indies' top-scorer Chris Gayle, as well as the Australian-raised all-rounder's aggression with the ball which earned him three wickets, and ultimately the man of the match award.

He had had a big hand in Hampshire's biggest stand, 47 for the second wicket with John Stephenson, the next highest partnership for the county team was one of 42 for the fourth between Robin Smith and Will Kendall, but the Hampshire total looked inadequate, and the West Indies looked too good.

But the Hampshire attack got its act together. The Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne accounted for Adrian Griffith in his first over and gave away 27 runs in his 10 overs. Alan Mullally and Shaun Udal were also admirably economical and the fielding indicated that a poor start to their summer could well have been put behind them. Hampshire were sharp, closing gaps, saving boundaries, turning twos into ones and generating doubt in the minds of the batsmen.

But Gayle, Hinds and the captain Jimmy Adams did enough to set up victory with four balls remaining. A satisfactory conclusion all round. On the one hand reputations remained intact, on the other pride had been restored.

* Zimbabwe were indebted to a Neil Johnson hundred as they beat Somerset by 21 runs in a 50-over friendly at Taunton. In the first of five warm-up matches for next month's triangular series with England and West Indies, Zimbabwe posted 248 for 4 after the acting captain Heath Streak had chosen to bat. Fifties from Piran Holloway and Mike Burns kept a depleted Somerset in with a chance, but the tourists took the last four wickets for seven runs to seal the win with eight balls left.

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