Cricket: Cavalier Kent fall by their own hand

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Nottinghamshire 185 and 178

Kent 125 and 3-0

A NEW strip and old-fashioned sporting cricket. Mark Benson backed his bowlers against those of the visitors and generally came off second best.

Yesterday, a total of 23 wickets were swept away in seven and a half hours at the St Lawrence Ground and, assuming the rain holds off, if this match makes a fourth day it will be a major achievement.

These things happen, particularly when something out of the ordinary confronts batsmen. The strip was laid down at the end of the '92 season and was used once last summer for a NatWest Trophy tie. On that occasion, Kent made 282 while Middlesex were rolled over for 116.

'Extremely sporting,' was how George Sharp, the umpire, described the wicket yesterday and overcast conditions again favoured the seamers if you discount another handful of wides. As for the spinners, they may as well have stayed at home.

Harking back to the Middlesex collapse here last June, it would be easy to assume that local knowledge was worth a thing or two. In which case, Benson's boys had not read the script. Nigel Llong and Steve Marsh may have put together the first half- century stand of the match, but they were two of just three batsmen to reach double figures for Kent.

It was not so much put to the sword as throwing themselves upon it, Kent apparently in a rush to reach the safety of the pavilion as they were hustled out in less that 42 overs to be left with a deficit of 60. On the other hand, it was not too pleasant out there.

Carl Hooper donned a helmet for only the third time in his career and for the first time here. In the event, it was not his head he had to worry about. Having been struck on a thumb and finger in making six, the West Indian was suffering enough to be substituted in the field when Nottinghamshire batted again.

Reasonably well off thanks to Paul Johnsons's no-nonsense innings of 70, and a nonsensical total of 43 extras, Chris Lewis and Greg Mike next shared six of the Kent wickets.

There was more fun and games when Nottinghamshire returned to the middle, too, Martin McCague opening with a nine-ball over besides ripping out Mark Crawley for a duck.

But while McCague took out Johnson cheaply to return 6 for 50 and four wickets went down in 14 balls without addition at one stage, Nottinghamshire, with a half-century from Tim Robinson, left Kent needing 239 for victory.

(Photograph omitted)