July 2, 2003

Wickets continue to fall at Northampton

Northampton's Wantage Road ground is gradually becoming synonymous as one where the batsmen are not relishing the prospect of playing at. And there was no change to that theory on the rain-affected first day of their latest Frizzell County Championship Division Two fixture.

Even though 41 overs were lost, there was still time for Hampshire to be bowled out for 125 after being put in and for Northamptonshire to totter to an unsure 20-3 by the close of play. It was no surprise to see Peter Walker, one of the nominated ECB pitch inspectors, on the ground all day.

But the damage was not done exclusively by the spinners, as had been the case in their most recent game against Derbyshire. Debutantes Damian Wright - Northants' replacement overseas player while Andre Nel is on South Africa duty - and former Gloucestershire seamer Mike Cawdron making the Hampshire batsmen hurry.

Hampshire included university returning trio John Francis, James Tomlinson and James Bruce to the starting lineup for rested Ed Giddins and injured Alan Mullally and Wasim Akram, whose bruised toe was declared unfit last night.

Asked to bat first, Cawdron snapped up the first three wickets to fall before Robin Smith struck an excellent 41, including eight crunching fours to restore some order as he added 60 with skipper John Crawley for the third wicket.

But their dual dismissal within a run of each other started a flow of wickets with Wright claiming Will Kendall and leading run-scorer Nic Pothas in successive balls before spinner Graeme Swann, the main protagonist in his sides' controversial game recently completed, extracted plenty of turn to snare Francis, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Shaun Udal to pick up 3-11 from just 3.1 overs to finish the innings.

Udal declared the wicket as "very much bowler friendly" is his post match considerations, especially after seeing the home side lose influential skipper Mike Hussey and fellow opener Mike Powell to James Bruce, on just his second championship outing. Jeff Cook also perished to become the 13th wicket of the day, all of whom were dismissed caught!

Despite there being almost a third of the day lost to the weather, this game is already well progressed but it is certain that Shaun Udal will be looking forward to his bowl on this surface.