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Pat Symes provides a preview of Hampshire for the 2006 season
Damien Martyn and Matthew Hayden were mooted but, on the back of a £750,000 loss for Rose Bowl plc, Hampshire had to settle for the younger, lesser-known Dominic Thornely of New South Wales. Michael Carberry has come from Kent in an attempt to solve the opening batsman problem. Homegrown Derek Kenway and Lawrence Prittipaul have gone.
The ever-changing Rose Bowl has sprouted six floodlight pylons (at under £100,000 each) as the next step towards the Test status coveted by the ambitious chairman Rod Bransgrove.
Warne's captaincy, Warne's bowling. The middle order looks solid too. John Crawley, Englandeligible Nic Pothas, Sean Ervine, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Greg Lamb and Jono McLean all have decent claims in the probable absence of Kevin Pietersen.
No Pietersen, maybe even no Shaun Udal after his Mumbai heroics - and finding the right opening partnership is a perennial problem. Injuries to Ervine and Chris Tremlett are a worry to manager Paul Terry. The pace bowling lacks depth and experience. Over-reliance on Warne's ageing wizardry is another concern.
The opening problem is solved, the middle order lives up to expectations, Tremlett stays fit and the spinners Warne and Udal find wickets to help them. The result? Championship outsiders and could do better than last season in the one-dayers.
Warne comes back from Australia's April tour of Bangladesh two stone overweight and with his right wrist in plaster after a fall in one of Chittagong's many pubs, England keep Pietersen and Udal, Ervine and Tremlett struggle with injuries and Division One survival becomes the only feasible target.
Young one to watch Kevin Latouf, South African-born, Hampshire raised, is a precocious batting and fielding talent with a C&G winner's medal already. Watch out also for the aggressive batsman Mitchell Stokes.
It would be nice to find someone other than Warne. But, seriously, Hampshire are going to rely heavily on the great man.
What they say
"Everything looks encouraging," says Paul Terry, "even if we have a few bowling problems. Sean Ervine may not be able to bowl initially after his knee operation, while Chris Tremlett is coming back slowly from his knee surgery."
Led by the mercurial Warne, Hampshire are a fine team. Ervine is an excellent allrounder and a fit Tremlett is a threat. Very difficult for a team to do well in both four-day and one day competitions but Hants have the firepower to try.
Predictions County Championship 3rd (D1) Pro40 1st (D2)
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© The Wisden Cricketer