Cricket / County Championship: Sinking Essex clutch at a draw

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Kent. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .445-9 dec and 335-4 dec

Essex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .440-9 dec and 311-9

Match drawn

ESSEX, at first in the swim, were all but sunk at The Mote during the course of an enthralling afternoon's cricket here yesterday. While Kent appeared to be the victims of their own generosity, the clatter of nine wickets for 120 runs changed everything, the champs were suddenly made to look chumps and mighty grateful to come away with a draw.

Home supporters, not to mention Kent themselves, appeared resigned to defeat once the Essex openers made huge inroads into Mark Benson's asking rate of 341 from 82 overs. Paul Prichard's second century in the match provided the launch pad for Essex but things started to go horribly wrong after tea.

Carl Hooper had added 34 to his overnight 108, registering a personal best for Kent. Prichard and John Stephenson then took up where he left off and in the second session it seemed as if Essex were heading to victory with something to spare.

Essex had 185 on the board when Stephenson, who had made 83, was caught off Dean Headley. Prichard, who had struck a 96-ball century first time around, continued at a more sedate pace to reach three figures again. He was still there when Headley removed Jonathan Lewis's middle stump. The fun and games, though, really started once Headley claimed a stunning caught and bowled to take out Prichard, who had stood firm for nearly three and a half hours for a valiant 106. Kent were groaning, however, when Derek Pringle was caught off a Headley no-ball just after reaching double figures.

Pringle went on to make 48. The trouble, though, from an Essex point of view, was that he found himself running out of partners as the tension increased, Nadeem Shahid and Darren Robinson departing either side of a situation that saw Essex requiring 92 off the last 20 overs.

Pringle was eventually sixth out aiming a big hit at the slow left arm of Richard Davis, while Robert Rollins, Steve Andrew and Darren Cousins also joined the procession as Essex lost four wickets for seven runs in three overs. That left Mike Garnham and John Childs to hold the fort for five overs of nail-biting suspense.

(Photograph omitted)