Four-pack for James

Indians 362-5 dec Hampshire 49-2
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The Independent Online
What a crazy day. One moment the Indians were cruising along at 207 for one with Vikram Rathore on the brink of the century that had just eluded his opening partner, Ajay Jadeja. Next thing, Kevan James had taken four wickets in four balls - his first hat-trick - to turn the game and the Indians' pre-Test preparations upside down.

It has been an Indian summer for 35-year-old James, who has made a name for himself against touring teams. They still talk about his career-best six for 22 here against the 1985 Australians - at least they did until three o'clock yesterday when, with successive balls, the persevering left- arm seamer sent back Rathore, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar, Test players all. "Perhaps I was meant to be a Test player," James commented later.

It wasn't as if the ball did anything peculiar. James simply had a golden moment to reward his consistency. Rathore was smartly stumped down the leg side (a previous effort by Adrian Aymes was turned down), Tendulkar was caught by Jason Laney at short-leg, Dravid was adjudged lbw after what seemed an eternity, and Manjrekar nervously edged the fourth ball to Paul Terry at second slip.

Only four times since the Second World War has a bowler taken four wickets in four balls in England, the last being in 1972 when Surrey's Pat Pocock did it against Sussex at Eastbourne.

James would have had another wicket had Paul Whittaker clung to a hard chance at cover off Saurav Ganguly. Instead, the left-hander, with sound support from Anil Kumble's half-century, restored the Indians' innings with a charming unbeaten 100 off 141 balls.

His strokeplay, especially the driving that brought many of his 16 boundaries, was one of the delights of a day that was never devoid of interest from the moment that Jadeja hit three fours in the second over of the morning. However, it ought to be said that the Hampshire bowling, James apart, was all too often wayward in both line and length.

With Manjrekar seeking to regain his Test place after injury, Jadeja is under threat for Trent Bridge. Not that you would have thought so from the way he set about the bowling after Hampshire invited the Indians to bat first in overcast conditions on a pitch with a hint of green.

Rathore needed a few long-hops to get going - one from Martin Thursfield went for six - but when Jadeja posted the 100 in the 21st over with their 20th four, the two openers were well on their way. They kept pace into the 90s, whereupon Jadeja edged to slip to become James's first victim in a four-over spell that yielded five wickets for one run. And that is where we came in.

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