FOUR-DAY cricket or not, some players remain refreshingly unchanged. Matthew Fleming is one and his innings of 76 from 62 balls here yesterday not only made up for lost time but was dazzling and unorthodox enough to set the adrenalin flowing.
Unfortunately for Kent, Fleming chipped a catch to mid-on when they could have done with him taking a pace back, assessing the situation and then setting out his stall for a big innings. But it is not all that straightforward trying to drop down a gear when you are striking the ball with the power and authority which Fleming showed. What made his innings all the more remarkable was the fact that it came when Andy Pick's pace was giving Kent plenty of problems. It needed a good one to prise out Mark Benson and Pick produced it while Carl Hooper was stumped (for the third time in four innings) after a clever bit of bowling by Andy Afford.
Thus Fleming and Graham Cowdrey found themselves starting together not a little uneasily on as bouncy a pitch as they will have encountered for some time. Pick hustled them both. Fleming fell over as he dug out a rapid yorker and Cowdrey anxiously carved the bowler within inches of cover's hands.
Amid all that, Nottinghamshire seemed to think they had run Fleming out at 10 when Pick deflected Cowdrey's drive on to the stumps as the batsman backed up. But Vanburn Holder, the umpire, saw the episode as more marginal than they did, gave Fleming the benefit of the doubt and everyone except Nottinghamshire enjoyed the consequences.
Fleming tucked into Afford, encouraged by the short leg-side boundary, and improvised against Chris Cairns, who went for 29 in four overs. The stand was worth 92 in 17 overs when Cowdrey got himself caught on the midwicket boundary.
When Fleming was out, Kent were still short of 250 so Steve Marsh and Richard Ellison had to make a sober reappraisal. Both must have been relieved not to be confronted by Pick and, after all that had gone before, Ellison's resolute half-century was unmistakably a four-day innings.
Nasser Hussain and Salim Malik came close to rewriting their own county record as they destroyed the Derbyshire attack at Chelmsford yesterday. Hussain hit his third century of the season and Salim his first as Essex amassed 421 for 5. They shared in a fourth-wicket stand of 290 in 71 overs, 24 runs short of the record they established against Surrey at The Oval in 1991.
Hussain's century took 160 balls. He hit 21 fours and a six before he was caught behind off Devon Malcolm.
Salim looked ill at ease at the start, but settled down to complete his century with his fourth six. He went on to make 132 with 13 fours.