Rose Bowl pitch spiteful

G. VISWANATH

THE Rose Bowl is one of the landmarks in the port city of Southampton. Hampshire's new, high-class headquarters begs the question whether so much money should be spent to develop a property for playing cricket.

India's coach John Wright who has spent several years playing County cricket for Derbyshire and four years as coach at Kent, was pleased even if the county's curator prepared a sub-standard pitch for the three-day match between India and Hampshire. "It's good for County cricket and English cricket," he said about Hampshire's new-look venue.

Sanjay Bangar, who picked up seven wickets in the match, castles Neil Johnson in the first innings.-N. SRIDHARAN

The Rose Bowl is located about 10 miles from the city centre and has been short-listed for a NatWest Trophy match between Zimbabwe and South Africa next summer. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) officials are expected to give the green signal soon. However, the ECB officials may have reason to be worried about the quality of the pitch in Southampton because the playing surface provided for the match between India and Hampshire was not up to the mark.

The Indians were happy to come out winners by 66 runs and with all the 16 players in onepiece and not with broken bones. "It's quite understandable. A new facility is being established. We would have liked to play on a better surface," said Wright, shrugging off the criticism that Hampshire was not able to provide a good pitch for the Indians to practise before the first Test at Lord's.

The pitch was spiteful. The two captains, Sourav Ganguly and Robin Smith, met at lunch time on the second day and came to an understanding that in the remaining part of the match (five sessions of two hours each) only the slow bowlers would be in operation. This was done in order to prevent injuries because India had a Test match to play against England and Hampshire had a Norwich Union League one-day match against Lancashire.

Anil Kumble gets rid of Aymes on the final day.-N. SRIDHARAN

Not taking away the credit from Sanjay Bangar's seven-wicket haul in the match (four in the first and three in the second), it must be said that the pitch played its part in making him as deadly as he was. The majority of Bangar's victims were top-order batsmen. On his part Bangar maintained a good line and length and did not bend his back really, which Tinu Yohannan did on occasions. Yohannan once unnerved Smith with a nasty lifter from a length.

Rahul Dravid, who played commendably, hooks Hamblin for a four.-N. SRIDHARAN

Surprisingly, though, a bowler who took a bagful of wickets on the first day was not a fast bowler, but a spinner named Shaun Udal. He has a collection of over 800 first class wickets and thousands of runs, and at one time he was considered a promising allrounder in English cricket. He has played 10 one-dayers for England, but one has not heard people talking highly of him in recent times. He picked up five wickets on the first day, nailing Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly, Venkat Sai Laxman and Bangar. Just a day earlier he had collected 8,000 pounds from a benefit match.

Rahul Dravid was the only Indian batsman who was able to deal with the questions posed by the pitch and the Hampshire attack. He made 78, the second highest score being Laxman's 38. Hampshire was happy to have bowled out an international team with three world-class batsmen for 236 in under 82 overs.

Off-spinner Shaun Udal bagged five wickets in the first innings, one of his victims being Virender Sehwag.-N. SRIDHARAN

The home team was in worse plight soon. It was shot out for 123, its overseas player from South Africa, Neil Johnson contributing just 45 runs. No other batsman crossed the 20-run mark. In fact, the second best effort was an 18 by a bowler with a Russian-like first name and an East Indian surname, Dmitri Mascarenhas.

A lead of 113 runs made Ganguly declare his second innings at 139 for four. His declaration came immediately after Will Kendall struck Bangar on the gloves. Ganguly felt that life was safe on this pitch only when one was a part of the 11-man team on the field rather than facing any type of bowler from 22 yards, be it a part-time bowler such as Kendall or a specialist spinner in Udal.

Hampshire was bowled out in the first innings in 37.3 overs; in the second it batted for 46.2 overs to make 186. The Indian spinners did not prove to be deadly, but Kumble had the satisfaction of taking four wickets. "We are doing fine," said Wright at the post-match press conference.

The scores:

India 236 (Virender Sehwag 41, Rahul Dravid 78, Venkat Sai Laxman 38, Shaun Udal five for 59) and 139 for four decl. (Wasim Jaffer 32, Sanjay Bangar 52 not out, Ajay Ratra 26) beat Hampshire 123 (Johnson 45, Bangar four for 40, Sourav Ganguly three for 10) and 186 (L. R. Prittipaul 32, S. D. Udal 36, Bangar three for 27, Anil Kumble four for 58).