Cricket: Ealham upholds Kent's honour

County Championship: Derbyshire poised for victory while Lancashire and Worcestershire are made to struggle
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The Independent Online
Kent 141 & 208-9 Derbyshire 300

THE PAST exploits of Kent players have been frozen, framed and hung everywhere at Canterbury, in the visitors' dressing-room and on the stairwell leading up to it in an attempt to gain a psychological edge and to remind the home squad of the club's proud achievements.

On the evidence of this performance the present bunch is more deserving of a place in the county's rogues' gallery. They would certainly be hard pressed to find anything worth framing from this match.

Only Mark Ealham, with a dogged and, at times, near stationary half century, was prepared to tough it out, staying long enough not just to make Derbyshire bat again but also to drag the match into a third day with Kent 49 runs ahead. The defeat will still be humiliating, more so since it should be Derbyshire's first victory on the ground for 40 years.

In fact Ealham's innings served merely to underline the embarrassment of their predicament as he cudgelled an admirable, unbeaten 85, including a six and 16 fours during a near four-hour stay at the crease, ably supported during the extra half hour by Martin McCague, who had joined him with scores level. There was a danger of this becoming the first day-night match in the County Championship as Derbyshire pressed but failed to take the last wicket.

It is already quite clear, even this early in the season that the newly installed captain, Fleming, is going to have his work cut out to knock an undeniably talented bunch of individuals into a squad worthy of challenging for major honours.

If Kent's batting was poor first time around, there was little improvement 24 hours later. Only Ealham and Fleming shovelled together any kind of a barrier against the penetrative Derbyshire attack. At least Kent's bowlers had stuck at it. Dean Headley and Ealham each picking up four wickets.

Unlike Kent, the Derbyshire batting bottle held no surprise with Cork as their stopper. His three and a half hour innings was one of great self- discipline and it was essential to the Derbyshire cause, a real captain's effort. It put Derbyshire well in charge, demoralised the opposition and left Kent with far too much to do.

Cork has begun the season rather well. He arrived at the crease with a couple of not outs in championship and one day matches. He had his moments of luck on the occasions that the persevering Kent bowlers found the edge.

But he also middled it, helping himself to a couple of sixes and nine fours in his worthy 82. What is more he turned out to be something of a hero, having received a blow on his left elbow from a Dean Headley delivery sometime during his innings.

He and Karl Krikken supplied backbone to the cause with a 61-run stand for the seventh wicket and it was his shot which which brought up the 300 and a third batting bonus point.

Cork left the action early to go to hospital for an X-ray after receiving a nasty blow on his left elbow from a Headley delivery during the morning session. Thankfully there was no fracture, just some badly-injured Kent pride.