Cricket: Hooper fills Kent's void

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The Independent Online
Gloucestershire. .243 and 104-3

Kent. .474

KENT'S splendid opening attack of Alan Igglesden and Martin McCague is so badly crocked that the management is thinking of sending them to the Sports Injuries Centre at Lilleshall next week. As if that was not enough, Dean Headley, the capable young back- up, limped off the field with an hour to play.

And it did not affect the state of the game at all: Gloucestershire's batsmen were falling to Kent's two spin bowlers instead. With Gloucestershire still 127 runs behind Kent, they seem destined both for a second consecutive innings defeat, and a long, painful summer.

Kent built a substantial first-innings lead of 231 by patient accumulation to begin with in a stand of 72 between Richard Davis and Steve Marsh, and then in a rewarding flurry by Mark Ealham and Headley, which raised another 70 for the ninth wicket.

Both Ealham and Marsh scored their first half-centuries of the season on a slow turner of a pitch, which dictated the stately pace of the Kent innings for the first half of the day's play.

But that did not matter for the crowd, either, because the Nevill ground in Tunbridge Wells was like a fantasy of an English summer's day.

Kent play here when the rhododendrons are still in bloom; and yesterday the sun shone as well - 'it is no mean contender for the most delectable English cricket ground', E W Swanton once said.

The shadows duly lengthened, and Kent's spinners, Carl Hooper and Richard Davis, made the occasional ball bounce unexpectedly. Dean Hodgson and Tony Wright were out to good bowling. Sadly, Chris Broad was out to bad batting, swishing at a straight ball from Hooper.

When all Kent's bowlers are fit they will be a team well worth watching.