Cricket: Hooper runs rings round Lancashire

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The Independent Online
THERE can be few finer sights than that of Carl Hooper in full flow. And here yesterday at times it was not so much a flow as a veritable flood, as Kent finally made a game of it. The West Indies Test all-rounder took on all-comers, treating every Lancashire bowler with disdain as he raced to a magnificent hundred. He was a oneman storm on a sunny day.

His compelling innings totally eclipsed the equally vital innings of David Fulton. The Kent opener had reached his fifty some seven overs prior to Hooper's arrival at the crease, but appeared to get into a rut in the face of some miserly bowling by Ian Austin and Mike Watkinson, the latter wheeling away with his off-spinners.

Hooper had a look for a couple of overs then pounced. Despite the fact that Watkinson was managing to turn the ball square at times he was off the mark with the first of his boundaries. In the former Lancashire captain's next over he lofted the ball straight and high back behind Watkinson. A four followed that six and he was away. By the time he reached his fifty off 54 balls, having hit a total of nine boundaries as well as that first six, Fulton, whose own fifty had occupied 115 deliveries, had crept into the 70s.

There was a brief spurt which took Fulton into the 90s, at which point he went back into his shell. Despite Hooper leaving as much of the strike to Fulton as he could, his partner remained rooted on 96, a tantalising one shot away from what would have been only his second championship hundred.

The 25th ball he faced in this unhappy spell was the fatal one. Fulton, looking to work it to leg, was rapped on the pad. He fell with Kent just two runs away from wiping out Lancashire's substantial 259-run first innings lead. They eased ahead with yet another imperious boundary before Hooper gave the watching Fulton an object lesson in dealing with the nervous nineties.

In one over from the luckless Ian Austin he hammered 23 runs which saw him rocket from 89 to 112. The hundred was brought up with his fourth six, this one dispatched over mid-wicket, off the 99th ball of his innings. It was the 41st century of his career and the 17th he has scored for Kent. In addition to the big hits there was a further 15 boundaries in what was his first hundred in the championship since July 1996. As a measure of the pace of Hooper's scoring, the 50 partnership for the fourth wicket with Alan Wells took just 44 balls, and Wells contributed just three runs to it.