Cricket: Benjamin gives his career best

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Surrey 301-8 dec

Kent 117 and 145-2

OF THE three Caribbean Benjamins presently treading the boards, Surrey's Joey is by far the least renowned. Yesterday he made amends, career-best performances with bat and ball enhancing his side's push for a fourth Championship win in a row.

On the face of it, Benjamin, now 31, might seem to have been tardy in imposing his presence. A fast bowler from St Kitts, he was 27 before he made his Warwickshire debut, and only since his close-season move to The Oval has he gained a regular first-team place.

Until yesterday his 18 Championship wickets had been on the expensive side at 56 runs apiece, but there was no hint of philanthropy as he ran through the Kent upper order, spurred on by the vivacious 42 that had earlier earned Surrey full batting points.

Martin Bicknell made the breakthrough by hitting Mark Benson's pads with his fifth ball, whereupon Benjamin, aided by some movement off the seam, and a blanket of cloud, had Trevor Ward, Neil Taylor and Graham Cowdrey caught, Carl Hooper playing on in the interim.

Bicknell flushed out the tail, a belated reward for a vigorous, unlucky stint that must surely have impressed the watching Alan Knott, one of England's observers. Since touring Australia two winters ago, the younger of the Bicknell brothers has been stalled by a dislocated shoulder, but with 19 wickets in his last three outings he is beginning to look the part again.

So, too, is Ward. When Kent followed on, the first visitors to do so here since 1973, a modicum of caution might have been in order. Not in Ward's book. With Benson an innocent bystander at the other end, Ward clattered the bowling to all parts, reaching his second century of the summer from 95 balls, the second 50 only taking 29.

He was particularly hard on James Boiling, pullingthe off-spinner twice for six in his first over and later depositing him into an adjacent petrol station. Ward was so dominant that Benson contributed just 14 to an opening stand of 116. When Boiling extracted revenge, by having Ward caught behind, Surrey's relief was manifest.