Cricket: Fleming proves a timely saviour

Kent 119 and 303-9 Worcestershire 106
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The Independent Online
KENT, BOWLED out in half a day on Friday, lasted twice as long yesterday and in doing so gained a commanding position at New Road, where Worcestershire trail by 316 runs and still need to dislodge the last Kent wicket. The match will be beyond them if Dean Headley and Min Patel bowl as well as they did in dismissing the home side for 106 first time around.

At 135 for 7 in mid-afternoon, such prosperity for Kent seemed unlikely. But then a breathtaking unbeaten century from the captain Matthew Fleming transformed the match and gave his side a chance to go third in the Championship table with only their third victory.

Fleming made his reputation as a bold and exciting hitter but until yesterday, remarkably, he had not scored a first-class hundred for almost two years. Given the previous dominance of ball over bat, this one was all the more noteworthy.

On the front foot from the start, Fleming quickly brought Alamgir Sheriyar, who had done the hat-trick on Friday, down to earth with a series of fluent drives, including three through cover in one over.

Conditions were easier than the opening day but Fleming's partners came and went regularly none the less, hence his urgency in punishing any ball that deserved it. His first 52 runs came off 96 balls with eight fours, the next 51 off 30 more, the majority after Patel had been dismissed at 249 for 9.

He certainly ended all debate about the pitch. After both sides had been bowled out on day one, the mandatory alert brought pitch inspector Chris Wood and his predecessor, Harry Brind, hot foot from Lord's.

It was the second scrutinising of New Road this season but it seemed unnecessary given that neither umpire had seen any grounds for complaint. Brind pronounced himself happy that the strip was not dangerous. If anything needed looking at it was the quality of batting, found equally wanting on both sides.

Slow and without much bounce, this has not been a very good surface but too many batsmen nowadays seem to trust nothing except fast tracks with an even bounce. Present them with anything else and paranoia sets in.

Even before Fleming appeared Kent, dismissed for 119 before Worcestershire tumbled on Friday, had confirmed the estimation that they could hardly bat worse, although Andrew Symonds, out first ball to off-spinner Vikram Solanki, offering no stroke, bagged a king pair, having been the third victim of Sheriyar's hat-trick the day before.