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Hampshire season preview

Warne's departure leaves gaping void

Mascarenhas: stepping into Warne's shoes

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Shane Warne's decision to call time on his first-class career is a severe dent to Hampshire's quest for their first county championship title since 1973.

The lure of the Indian Premier League and the poker table proved too great for Warne, who brought plenty of excitement but just one trophy to the county he joined in 2000.

Without the Australian leg-spinner at the helm, Hampshire's credentials as serious contenders in the four-day format are questionable.

Adding to the state of flux at the Rose Bowl is the absence of Warne's replacement as skipper, Dimitri Mascarenhas, for two weeks in May so he can also fill his pockets in the IPL.

Veteran off-spinner Shaun Udal has re-emerged at Middlesex after briefly hanging up his spikes at the end of last season, while Eton-educated seam bowler James Bruce has retired at the age of 28 to pursue his fortune in the City.

Bond investment

In Warne's place as overseas player arrives New Zealand paceman Shane Bond for the first half of the season followed by Queensland all-rounder Shane Watson for the Twenty20 Cup.

Bond will form a pacy new-ball pairing with Chris Tremlett, while the retirement of Bruce should create opportunities for youngsters such as David Griffiths and David Balcombe.

The batting looks more of a concern. Only Michael Carberry and Michael Brown passed 1,000 championship runs during the last campaign .

Sightings of Kevin Pietersen at the Rose Bowl are again likely to be rare due to international commitments, he has not played a championship match since 2005.

In Pietersen's absence the burden of leading the batting falls on the shoulders of 36-year-old John Crawley, who needs to recapture the form of his excellent campaign two years ago. More is also needed from the blades of Michael Lumb and Chris Benham.

Improving on last season's performances - fifth in the county championship and fourth in Pro40 League - would be a fine achievement.

Big year for: Michael Lumb - Lumb averages just 32.86 from 97 first-class matches, numbers that do scant justice to his talent. His move south from Yorkshire last winter did not prompt any improvement and - at the age of 28 - time is no longer on his side.

Rising star: Liam Dawson - The departure of Warne and Udal creates an opportunity for left-arm spinner Dawson to establish himself in the first team. The left-arm spinner has already impressed for England Under 19 and is handy enough with the bat to have designs on all-rounder status.