Cricket: Days of fun in Kent sun

Kent 541 Essex 174-3
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The Independent Online
YESTERDAY WAS Ladies' Day at the Canterbury Festival, Henley without the punts. The flags fluttered, the marquees heaved with Men of Kent and Kentish men, beer buffs and the Queen's Own Buffs. In the President's tent, Lords Runcie, McLaurin and Cowdrey shared a joke with the local saint, E W Swanton.

The Band of the Grenadier Guards played, the ladies wore hats of sometimes bizarre invention, and two teams with intentions of playing First Division cricket next year duelled beneath a sultry sun.

Essex are fighting to claw their way out of the hole dug for them by the Kent batsmen. The visitors began batting in mid-afternoon aware 392 runs were needed to avoid a follow-on.

The wicket is beginning to give encouragment to the spinners, confirmed when the prolific Stuart Law, the first man to 1,000 runs this season, tried to hit Min Patel into the crowd and was clean bowled. But a strip that started so firm and flat is unlikely to turn Kent's dominance of the game completely on its head later in the proceedings.

At 384 for 4 overnight, Kent could take the loss of Wednesday's hero Andrew Symonds in the seventh over of the day with equanimity. Even the demise of his partner Mark Ealham, with whom Symonds had added 207, and Matthew Fleming to successive balls - Fleming saw his stumps explode across the grass to a very quick David Thompson yorker - could be shrugged off, because they still had a Martin McCague cameo to relish. McCague can give the ball a mighty tap when in the mood, and in alliance with Patel he took the hosts beyond 500.

Late in the day, Essex resistance was led by the England Under-19 player Ian Flanagan and Ronnie Irani. In the evening, the sun's heat barely diminished, the brims of a thousand Panama hats tilted gently forwards and Kent chirruped confidently in the field.