Cricket: Heavens halt the pursuit of Essex

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The Independent Online


KENT and are in pursuit of Essex for the Championship. They are 25 and 36 points behind, with only three games left each, so their efforts may be in vain, but at least they have been running in the right direction of late: in the last week both have won decisively, Kent beating Leicestershire by an innings and 138 runs and beating Hampshire by 10 wickets.

However, on the second day of this match here, pursuit of Essex and victory required patience. Northampton was sometimes dark, sometimes damp (or worse) and often both, so that the morning session had two short acts and one 40-minute intermission and the afternoon never began.

Even in the 22 overs of play there was only progress by stealth. The wicket, not on its first outing, is both worn and green, a combination designed for a result, not high scoring. Kent, whose only effort in their previous match had been 502 for 4 declared, were bowled out in 97 overs for 196, so that 's purpose had to be careful progress through the day towards a decisive first-innings lead.

Fordham and Felton, not out overnight, were also aware that their batting lacked Lamb and, perhaps less significantly, Pemberthy and Ripley. Thus, as senior players, they took their responsibility seriously.

Against Martin McCague, who in 10 days has taken eight and seven wickets in an innings, and Alan Igglesden, they put up with missing and being hit on fingers and elsewhere, and waited to score from balls which were overpitched.

Ellison replaced McCague and rain replaced gloom before the 50 partnership was reached in the 24th over. However, in the next over Ellison, who was beginning to look more than usually lugubrious with the wet ball, knocked out Fordham's off- stump with one that moved away off the seam and, cheered up, in his next over he had Felton dropped at second slip by McCague.

Felton's survival was brief; he was bowled for 40 in the next over, pushing indeterminately forward. Bailey, who not only acts as captain, in Lamb's absence, but bats like one, missed several from Ellison but timed more than anyone else and Russell Warren, in his second first- class match, missed more than he hit to prove how hard it is to start a career in first-class cricket.

The rain has made it even harder for both counties to win. and Kent may contrive some form of declaration on Monday, but Essex have probably done more by doing nothing than these two have by watching covers and floodlight pylons at Northampton.