Cricket: Bowlers to the rescue for Kent

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The Independent Online
Kent 245 Sussex 102-4

The remains of a giant oak tree tower over the scoreboard on the Barrack Field side of this picturesque ground. It died four years ago, but the club was prohibited from taking it down because it was said to be harbouring bats, which are protected under law.

Subsequent investigation established that no bats had ever existed there; and that is rather like Kent have been this season. Claims that they have batsmen have proved illusory. They had compiled a paltry two batting bonus points before this game and their coach, John Wright, a distinguished Test batsman for New Zealand, must be a puzzled man.

On paper Kent have the machinery to pile up the runs; in practice, they tend to dig themselves into huge holes and wait for the bowlers to come along with the metaphorical rope ladders. And that is roughly what happened here yesterday.

By the close Sussex were looking a little bit sick themselves after Ben Phillips had whipped out Toby Radford and Neil Lenham for very few and the leg-spinner Paul Strang, having tied down the Railway End, then winkled out Bill Athey and Keith Greenfield. But, unlike Kent, Sussex have not quite rolled over.

Nor have they treated the first 15 or so overs as if it were a Sunday League match. Kent had a couple of early shocks. Firstly they lost one of their openers, David Fulton, who retired hurt and headed off to the hospital for X-rays on his left forearm after receiving a nasty blow from Paul Jarvis off the second ball of the day (he eventually returned, bruised, to make an unbeaten 35).

Then Matthew Walker departed in the ninth over, by which time he and Trevor Ward had brought up the 50.

Ward, in partnership with the former Sussex captain Alan Wells (who must have dearly wanted to succeed), proceeded to flay the Sussex attack at approximately six runs an over. Much good it did them. They still finished with only one batting point, because, depleted as the Sussex bowling ranks are, the four who were used stuck to their task, bowling an ideal line and length.

Vasbert Drakes is still nursing a side strain (one of three Sussex bowlers with a similar injury) and was only 80 per cent fit, but perhaps that was part of the secret of his control for a return of three wickets. Jarvis, too, displayed a deal of quality and was rewarded with three wickets.

But the pick of the day was Keith Newell, a deceptive medium pacer. It was he who accounted for Ward, ending his 85-ball stay - during which he struck a dozen boundaries - by having him caught behind for 67. That was the prelude for a career best 4 for 61 for the 25-year-old as he then accounted for Wells, Paul Strang and Ben Phillips.