NICKY Hatch took the first two wickets on his championship debut and Danny Law followed up with career-best bowling, yet it would be wrong to say Durham's bowling hit new heights yesterday.

From 149 for eight, Hampshire recovered to make 246, Law taking six for 53, and Durham replied with 113 for one on the first day of their visit to the impressive new ground at West End.

Hatch, 6ft 8in, and Law, 6ft 5in, did most of their damage through swing rather than exploiting inconsistencies in the pitch and Durham seemed to have let Hampshire off the hook.

But they replied in confident fashion against modest bowling with skipper Jon Lewis racing to a 75-ball half-century and finishing on 59 not out. Hampshire's score was the lowest by a side batting first at the ground so far, yet it looked slightly above par for a pitch offering lateral movement and some signs of uneven bounce.

Following his best one-day performance for Durham at Ilford on Sunday, Law found plenty of away movement and for a time after lunch looked as though he might take a wicket at any time.

His championship record for Durham until yesterday was five wickets at 67.6 and his career-best five for 33 against Durham at Hove five years ago still looked a distant memory.

Four of his victims fell to edged catches and when he had to be brought back to end the ninth- wicket stand it was clearly his day as Alex Morris miscued a pull to Hatch at mid-on.

It was like watching cricket in the early years at the Riverside, when batsmen went for their shots in the belief that the death ball might come along at any time.

Runs flowed as 32 came off the first seven overs, then wickets crashed before Morris came in at No ten to thrash a 48-ball half-century, putting on 92 with Adrian Aymes.

Lewis paid the penalty for having Hatch and the erratic Ian Hunter operating at the same time as the first 50 runs in this stand were plundered in only nine overs.

Hunter sent down six wides, while Hatch was despatched for three successive leg-side fours to bring up Morris's 50, all but six of which came in boundaries.

It was unfortunate that Durham had Nicky Phillips, one of only four players in the team under 6ft 1in, at first slip as a taller man might have caught Morris off Law on three.

A few catches have gone down at second slip, where Paul Collingwood normally fields, so Durham switched Martin Love there and he held two good catches.

Hatch was brought in because Stephen Harmison had not quite recovered from a calf injury. The Darlington bowler was clipped through mid-wicket for four and driven to the long-off boundary in his first over by Derek Kenway.

But he continued to keep the ball well up and defeated another attempted off drive with the first ball of his fourth over to hit Kenway's off and middle stumps.

Two balls later Will Kendall edged a ball of almost yorker length to Love, then the last ball of the over reared past Robin Smith's chin.

When Simon Brown had Smith well caught at short leg by Nicky Peng the flying start had ended with the capture of three wickets for 23 runs.

Zimbabwean Neil Johnson who, like Morris, bats left-handed and bowls right, then put on 60 with opener Giles White.

Hampshire were still scoring at four an over when Johnson fell lbw for 32 to a ball from Law which might have swung past leg stump. As it was the third confident appeal of the over justice might have been done.

Law took four of the five wickets as 115 for three became 149 for eight, Brown chipping in with the wicket of Dimitri Mascarenhas, who shouldered arms to a straight one.

But Yorkshire reject Morris, still sporting his ponytail, blazed away to good effect.

Phillips got his fingertips to the slip chance then the next two balls were pulled and driven for four.

It cried out for Phillips to bowl to exert some control, especially as Hunter's radar was way off beam whether he bowled over the wicket or round. Phillips did eventually replace him, but it took the recall of Law to break the stand and after removing Morris he moved one away from Aymes to have him well caught by Love to his right for 41.

With Alan Mullally still with England, the Hampshire attack carried few teeth and Michael Gough kept pace with Lewis in a stand of 55.

Gough had made 24 when he pushed down the line and had his off stump rattled by the medium pace of Mascarenhas.

Johnson confirmed the impression gained during his day's as Thornaby's professional - that he is a much better batsman than bowler - as Lewis repeatedly cut him for four.

Perhaps the most controlled bowling of the day came in the last half hour from off-spinner Shaul Udal, who had Lewis dropped at slip by Johnson on 59.

He also beat Love several times, but the Australian finished on 20 not out and will hope for more of yesterday's glorious sunshine today.