Hampshire Cricket have announced that opening batsman Jason Laney, off-spinner Irfan Shah and seamer James Schofield will not be offered new contracts with the county for 2003. Alongside the trio, Giles White has announced his retirement from first-class cricket.

All four were out of contract at the end of this season and have paid the price for poor seasons, which saw the first XI relegated from Division One of the Frizzell County Championship and end near the foot of the Norwich Union League.

Director of Cricket Tim Tremlett spoke of the dedication these players had given to Hampshire. "I would like to thank them for their efforts in aid of the county, both on and off the pitch.

"However, we are looking to secure a top-order batsman from overseas, while further strengthening the batting line-up with an English qualified player.

"The emergence of players like John Francis and James Adams has made their chances in the first XI limited, and with our hope of signing further batsmen, it would limit their opportunities further."

It ends a long association for both White and Laney, who joined the staff simultaneously in 1994. 30-year-old White ends an 11-year first-class career that started at Somerset, before he joined Hampshire in 1994. His 6195 runs in 128 matches at an average of 30.66 included nine centuries.

The other three players are all in the search for new counties. 29-year-old Laney has been generally linked with Gloucestershire for a couple of seasons, and his release from Hampshire may fuel their interest once more.

He had become a regular member of the first XI in later months, but his 4414 runs at 29.82 in 87 first-class matches in a career that spanned eight seasons ranks as a poor return for a promising, if unfulfilled opening batsman, who had been tipped for England honours in the early part.

Probably more surprising is seamer James Schofield's sacking after just four first team appearances in his two years on the staff.

He will be remembered for taking a wicket with his first ball in both forms of the game, dismissing Matthew Hayden in the memorable Australia match at the Rose Bowl last season, as well as snaring Anurag Singh in a National League match against Warwickshire.

His 19 wickets at a shade over 23 apiece were obviously insufficient to merit him a further contract, and with the county keen to attract the services of at least two front-line seamers in the winter, Schofield's opportunities would have been decidedly more rare.

He has already attracted considerable interest from a number of other teams, which he is likely to pursue.

With the signing of Shane Warne, Irfan Shah would have been pushed down the pecking order once more, so the 23-year-old Londoner is searching for a new county. Charlie van der Gucht's return to full fitness and Shaun Udal's excellent campaign has also hampered the likable Shah's hopes of gaining a first team call-up.

Hampshire would not be drawn on the situation for out of contract overseas player Neil Johnson, only declaring that the decision on their second overseas for next season would be made in due course, but a top-order batsman is thought to be high on the shopping list, a role which Johnson may fill.