Cricket: Hooper fuels Kent hopes

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The Independent Online
FINDING the overseas player who might guide you to the Championship is slightly more difficult than picking a party leader capable of securing an election victory. In Tunbridge Wells it is entirely probable that they are significantly happier with Carl Hooper than with John Major.

Hooper, in his third season with Kent, looks to be the man they have been awaiting since the days of John Shepherd. He failed narrowly to lead them to a remarkable - and probably undeserved - victory against Nottinghamshire at Canterbury yesterday but his sparkling innings of 66 demonstrated that the side could finally win their first trophy since 1978.

Batting at No 7, having nursed a bruised thumb through Friday, he reached his half century off 72 balls with eight fours. On a Canterbury pitch which started green and became like an outfit worn by Robin Hood in his days in Nottinghamshire, this was snook cocking of the first order.

It was not enough. Kent, pursuing an unlikely 239 to win, fell nine short. Hooper was finally dismissed by Chris Lewis, who took five for 55 and eight wickets in the game. Lewis has been down this road before and Ray Illingworth may not be convinced that such a return has much meaning in Test terms.

Essex have been very adept in their selection of overseas players. From Keith Boyce and Ken McEwan through Allan Border, Mark Waugh and Salim Malik they have conjured up players who not only deliver the goods but also complement colleagues. For this summer they alighted on Michael Kasprowicz, a 22-year-old Australian from Brisbane with a history of injury and a moderate domestic season behind him.

Kasprowicz eased into the county proceedings by taking four wickets in his first match at little cost and yesterday at Stockton ran through the Durham middle order. This might have rated fairly high on the so- what scale except that Durham have made enough new signings to compete almost on level terms. They were unfortunate to come up against a player able to take advantage of the early humidity but when that disappeared they fought back well in their follow-on. Two of the new boys, Mark Saxelby and John Morris, were at the helm of the recovery. Saxelby does to the shine on a new ball what sandpaper does to polished furniture and he reached his third half-century in four Championship innings for the county, which he converted into his second century. If saving the match proves beyond them there are still abundant reasons for thinking that Durham will not be 18th this summer.

Sussex have signed Paul Jarvis, and he marked his debut with four wickets against Gloucestershire at Bristol. He has much yet to do and the smart word on the circuit is that if his mental approach is now right his body might object round about mid-July.

Graham Gooch was reported last night to have made himself available for England's tour of Australia this winter.

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