Somerset rising

Somerset 541 Hampshire 159 and 231 Somerset won by an innings and 151 runs
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Somerset completed their fourth Championship win of the summer just before lunch, the points taking them within sight of the contenders, after a week of dark intrigue. Although the removal of Andy Hayhurst from the captaincy will not provoke the uproar that led to a special general meeting after the departure of Viv Richards, Joel Garner and Ian Botham, there was considerable speculation among the small crowd.

Hayhurst had just led Somerset to their first Championship victory in Yorkshire in 15 years; he had doubled that up in the Sunday League, and although his side lost to Surrey in the NatWest quarter-final last week, they had much the better of the first day. But on Thursday morning here, Hayhurst found himself dropped and in the second team for the rest of the season. He admitted his own form had been unimpressive but the county's cricket chairman, Brian Rose, said hiscaptaincy "was not in question".

Marcus Trescothick, who won his place back at Hayhurst's expense, hit 178. Hampshire followed on and were finally routed by an innings and 151 runs, Peter Bowler, the acting captain, taking three catches yesterday off the bowling of the spinner Jeremy Batty.

Game, set and match, then, to the amiable but ambitious Bow-ler, whose clashes with Kim Barnett brought his departure from Derbyshire in 1994. If, as now seems likely, he is confirmed as Somerset's next captain, then he has inherited a rich kingdom.

Despite the pro-Gough lobby, Andrew Caddick is the best fast bowler not to have played for England this year. He can swing, seam and cut the ball, his height gains him unexpected bounce, and he varies his pace cleverly. Bowler has an outstanding young opening pair in Mark Lathwell and Trescothick and, next year, the world's second-best leg-spinner, Mustaq Ahmed, returns.

Not since the Richards-Botham era have Somerset looked such likely winners. Their demolition of Hampshire was comprehensive, only Matthew Keech, with a cracking 61 that included 12 fours (with two pulls off Caddick) from 76 balls, delaying the end. As to why they should replace a popular and experienced captain with an apprentice leader at this stage of the season, one veteran observer said: "With any conspiracy theory in Somerset cricket, you should always start with a probable cock-up."

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