Gloucestershire 195 for 4 v Hampshire
The sparse crowd on a numbingly cold, showery day in Southampton indicated why Hampshire have decided to rebrand their ground as part of a sponsorship deal to bring in extra revenue. There was cricket to match the low turnout: a half-century scored in 50 overs by Chris Dent, which was, of course, precisely what Gloucestershire required following a heavy defeat at Chelmsford last week and the loss of four wickets for 87 runs on Thursday after being put in on a greenish pitch. Fortunately for them, this proved somewhat deceptive.
The old pros always know. "If they bat through the first hour, it will play well," said the long-serving former Hampshire seamer Kevan James, who now works in the local media. The initial difficulty was dealing with the new ball seaming around under menacing skies. David Balcombe, brimming with early season zest, had Richard Coughtrie taken at first slip by Simon Katich, Dan Housego at the wicket by the talented Michael Bates - fencing at one that lifted - and Hamish Marshall leg-before aiming to play through mid-on.
What with Alex Gidman going lbw to Sean Ervine, half forward, thoughts of another swift finish were to the fore. So the gumption of the left-handed and somewhat old-fashioned Dent - head over the ball, always in line - and Ian Cockbain, missed at second slip on 48 off Balcombe, was impressive, not least because the players were on and off the field throughout the day. The former reached his half century with eight fours, the latter with nine. One or two of them were streaky.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that four wickets were Hampshire's lot. They have not won a Championship match at the Rose Bowl since July 2010. Besides, James Tomlinson had a foot injury, Kabir Ali was suffering from ankle trouble and Dimitri Mascarenhas is involved in the IPL. Balcombe maintained a tidy length and extracted movement in the first hour, but other than having Cockbain dropped, lacked the same potency in the afternoon. Hail, thunder and lightning, combined with good old April showers, meant only 60 overs were possible.
Even when Danny Briggs came on well into the afternoon, his first two deliveries were loose and were dispatched to the cover boundary. That was quite uncharacteristic of him. At lunchtime he had been presented with his county cap by the Hampshire chairman, Rod Bransgrove - deservedly so given his undoubted promise and recognition by England over the winter. Somehow, he is still managing to commute from the Isle of Wight.
Ageas, the new backers of Hampshire cricket, have also had Shane Warne's name expunged from his own suite. The injection of capital by the insurance company, though, will go some way towards offsetting the loss that will be announced by Bransgrove in the coming weeks, and indeed make up for the inevitability of less revenue through smaller attendances on account of dropping into Division Two.
As to the disappearance of the Shane Warne Suite, that assuredly will not matter given that every time the former Hampshire captain returns to this ground he will be feted everywhere he goes. The Shaun Udal Suite survives. So, given Bransgrove's financial acumen, has this club, although he will not wish to see it linger in the second division for too long before he finally retires to Spain.