Cricket: Hooper hits heights

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Kent 377 and 407-5 dec

Yorkshire 331 and 53-1

IF THERE were relegation from the County Championship this would be the season's first dog-fight. July is here and neither Yorkshire nor Kent have won a single game.

Carl Hooper is at least a player of real class, as he showed here again yesterday. He launched into the Yorkshire attack, flaying them for 183, his highest score of the season. Thanks mainly to his effervescent display, Yorkshire are likely to sink to the bottom of the table. By the close they needed another 401 to win, with nine wickets in hand.

The day had started slowly with Mark Benson and Trevor Ward taking their time to post 50 on the board. Then Ward popped an innocuous ball straight to Paul Grayson at short midwicket. Four runs later Benson plodded down the wicket and was bowled. Suddenly Yorkshire were buzzing.

It was short-lived; a period of torpor ensued. Then Hooper came alive, raced to 38 and promptly retired hurt. The official excuse was dizziness but maybe it was all too easy. With Hooper absent Yorkshire edged back into the game before they made the mistake of dismissing Mark Ealham. Back came Hooper.

His was a sublime performance. Hooper 183 took only 156 balls and included 10 sixes, a county record. Along the way he was partnered by Neil Taylor, who made an efficient 83, and Graham Cowdrey, who contributed a lusty 47.

Admittedly, he was up against a depleted Yorkshire attack, with Darren Gough and Craig White away having fun at Old Trafford. Poor Richard Stemp took a hammering, half of Hooper's sixes being dispatched off his bowling. And on yesterday's showing Phil Tufnell's position as England's premier left-arm spinner is under greater threat from his ex- girlfriend's father than the Yorkshireman.