HAMPSHIRE go into their final friendly on Sunday in the build-up towards next month's Middleton Cup campaign minus almost half their chosen team.

County manager John Plomer had hoped to field a side close to the line-up that will play Middlesex in the cup opener on Saturday, June 5, but his plans have been foiled by the withdrawal of ten men - including a four-strong contingent from Southampton Sports Centre whose match in the EBA Two Fours competition clashes with the county's cup sharpener against Dorset at Dorchester (2pm).

That means the absence of John Keat, Richard Shelley, Mark Hammond and Colin Thresher, regulars in the cup squad who were all on duty in the first friendly which Hampshire lost 116-106 to Wiltshire at Atherley.

Couple that with the fact that influential men like Julian Haines and Chris Martin (both Boscombe Cliff) as well as Charlie Bailey (Fareham), Trevor Bailey (Alexandra) and Dave Dunford (Aldershot Traction) will also be absent, and it is clear that it will hardly be a satisfactory trial as far as Plomer is concerned.

Though all the rest are just unavailable for this one game, Dunford has had to pull out of the squad for the season because of work commitments.

The good news for Plomer, however, is that skips Martyn Sekjer and Rod Rosier return to the county ranks, and also the number of departures gives the boss a chance to look at other contenders for places in the 2004 squad.

Among those called up are Sports Centre's Iain Bunday, who is not in the club Two Fours team, and Ringwood duo Roy Leake and Alan Bryant, who qualified for the national stages of the pairs at Worthing as Hampshire runners-up last summer.

As predicted in these columns, Sekjer - now a Boscombe Cliff player after leaving Sports Centre - has pledged himself to Hampshire this season and skips a rink completed by three Central Division bowlers he knows well: Barry Bendall (Banister Park) and Fleming Park twosome Andy Anderson and Denny Graydon.

Anderson was runner-up to Sekjer in the 2002 county final, while Graydon beat the county and national champion in the Hampshire singles last summer. For Graydon, it is a return to the game after taking a winter break.

One familiar face in the Dorset side is Hampshire Liberty Trophy skip Adam Tidby, who reached the national indoor fours final at Melton Mowbray with Sekjer in March.

The May brothers stole the show against Wiltshire, Leo finishing 21-11 up against Neil Smith and Paul outgunning Ian Jefferies 21-16.

However, the Pyestock pair were Hampshire's only winners, defeats being suffered by Chris Daniels (19-17 to Dave Snell), Graydon (21-15 to Andy Moore) and Haines (24-13 to Neil Hope), though Charlie Bailey was 12-7 up when his rink was substituted at halfway by Dorian Bishop's four, who went on to lose 25-19 to Steve Snell.