Cricket: Hewitt's haul contains Kent

Middlesex 254 & 29-1 Kent 286
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The Independent Online
THE PERSISTENCE of the Middlesex bowlers, above all the brisk James Hewitt, prevented the visitors from taking total command yesterday. While the Australian Andrew Symonds and Robert Key were compiling their century stand for the fourth wicket, the Kent captain Matthew Fleming's stated ambition to go above 400 remained possible. But wickets were chipped away at the right times by Middlesex, restricting Kent's advantage to 32 and setting up a one-day, one-innings game.

Hewitt, elbows flapping and blond hair flopping, bowled four hard-working spells and earned the fifth five-wicket bag of his career. Trevor Ward was persuaded to try his favourite pull shot too early in the day, and was well caught by Richard Johnson running away at mid-on. Alan Wells flashed hard and wide and was acrobatically taken by David Nash, Symonds drove early and elicited another salmon leap, this time from Mark Ramprakash at backward point, Matthew Walker cut hard to gully and Min Patel's resistance late in the day ended with a clip to square leg.

Phil Tufnell, wheeling away at the Nursery End, bowled even more economically than Hewitt, and he began to show that probing, thoughtful variation of pace and flight that sits strangely with his casual appearance.

For the Kent batsmen, it was a story of the nearly men. After his England A tour to Zimbabwe and South Africa, the burly young opener Robert Key needed this confidence-boosting innings - his overseas batting average barely limped into double figures. He played with circumspection to get within sight of the first Championship century of the season - did anyone have money on Dougie Brown? - before Tufnell fooled him, and he turned the ball tamely to forward short leg.

Steve Marsh batted robustly until Tufnell cheated him of a 50 but it was Symonds who really threatened to take the game irretrievably away from Middlesex. By and large the batting in this game has been affected by the chilly weather and early-season uncertainty, but Symonds instantly raised the temperature - even shedding a layer of thermals once he had warmed up - and seemed to adjust well to the pace of an April wicket in England after an indifferent Australian season.

Those who fielded to Symonds during his seasons at Gloucestershire will remember the force with which he hits the ball, and sometimes yesterday it bounded across the moist turf as if on concrete. Too soon, though, he was gone, and the balance of the match was restored. With the evening dismissal of the luckless Richard Kettleborough, however, this still lay with Kent.

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