Cricket: Di Venuto's demise helps Kent

Sussex 336 & 185-6 Kent 336
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The Independent Online
MIKE DI VENUTO, one of the less lauded members of Australia's powerful Second XI, with nine one-day internationals to his name, has taken a fancy to Kent's bowling this year. In a pre-season friendly he made an undefeated 116, he scored 136 in the first innings of this game, and in indifferent light yesterday evening he took charge of Sussex's mission to set a Saturday target. He is a compact left-hander capable of flurries of violence, as when he carted Min Patel back over the bowler's head for the game's first six.

Patel, however, had the last laugh almost immediately. He held one back a fraction and Di Venuto patted back the tamest of catches just when another 100 seemed a formality.

The angry batsman did not join in the laughter, and rather churlishly failed to acknowledge the warm applause for his stylish 71. His dismissal, leaving Sussex on 141 for 4 with an hour or so of play in hazy light still possible, maintained the balance that has prevailed in this intriguing contest, before a late clatter of Sussex wickets tilted the advantage slightly towards Kent.

When Kent's first innings ended at 12.30pm they were exactly level with Sussex on 336. It took cautious morning batting from Mark Ealham and Patel to ensure parity, as Kent had been vulnerable on 282 for 8 overnight. The normally robust Ealham laboured 212 balls over his 74 in a game where give and take have been grudging, and advantage hard to achieve.

The Sussex line-up has been strengthened by the increasing confidence of Umer Rashid's batting. The left-hander was signed from Middlesex as a slow bowler, but his steady progress up the order from the lowest rung to seventh increases Sussex's batting options.

Kent, meanwhile, having won only three games in all forms of cricket this season, are still less than the sum of their parts. But victory is on offer today, and with so many county grounds prematurely shut once again, at least the Hove crowd will be treated to a proper four-day contest.

n Ricky Anderson, playing in only his third Championship match, collected the first five-wicket haul of his career to help Essex to a nine-wicket victory over Derbyshire at Chelmsford.