Hampshire had just 28 overs batting before rain curtailed play in the practise match against near neighbours Sussex at Hove that kicked off the 2004 season today (Monday).

Temporary captain Shaun Udal decided to bat first after the players were subjected to a gruelling weekends training at the Military Academy at Sandhurst.

On a blustery, overcast seaside morning, Hampshire lost two wickets for two runs with Derek Kenway being bowled second ball by Mohammad Akram and newboy Michael Brown falling lbw to Jason Lewry for a single.

Will Kendall struck a handsome cover drive, but he too fell victim to the lbw trap of the Sussex left-arm seamer, while Lawrence Prittipaul turned the same bowler to backward point without scoring. Tottering on 26-4, Hampshire's decision to bat first was looking somewhat debatable.

However, former captain John Crawley and wicket-keeper Nic Pothas started to play more fluently and by lunch, they had shared a 73-run unbroken partnership to take the score to 99-4. Crawley had hit nine fours in his 42 and Pothas five in his 36.

But rain had brought the players from the field five minutes ahead of the scheduled lunch break and incessent drizzle off the sea ensured the stayed in the shelter of the pavilion until play was called off at 4pm.

SCORES: Hampshire 99-4 (Crawley 42*, Pothas 36*, Lewry 3-18).