Cricket: Hooper in command

Leicestershire. .249 and 266

Kent. . . . . . .291 and 2-0

THE FIRST Canterbury festival on this ground took place in 1847 and for many years the first game was between Kent and a full England team. This year, it is Kent versus Leicestershire - the 10th team against the seventh in the County Championship. It was a decent day's play, but in a very different league.

But some things have not changed. Many of the flags flying above the marquees, for example, can be seen on 19th century prints of the festival. But when the men and women of the band of the Princess of Wales's regiment (TA) played at lunchtime they paraded in front of mostly empty tents.

The Conservative Association's marquee was deserted, presumably because the members have other things on their minds. There were some Men of Kent, although many were women. The biggest buzz came from the Band of Brothers.

For the sprinkling of spectators that did turn out yesterday, the cricket gave the seagulls nothing to cry about. Leicestershire were trying to hold on to a game that has been going gradually Kent's way since the visitors lost their last five wickets for 29 runs on the first day.

By mid-afternoon on the third day, they were making a good fist of the fightback after a fifth wicket stand of 78 between Phil Robinson and Laurie Potter, but recent history repeated itself; four wickets went for nine runs in nine overs, and Leicestershire's wounds were self-inflicted.

The commendable fifth-wicket partnership had built on a brisk second-wicket stand of 91 between Nigel Briers and James Whitaker, who went on to make a good 69. At 222 for 4 Leicestershire were 180 ahead and Kent had begun to worry about the size of the winning total.

Then Robinson went for a run and Potter didn't. Robinson was out for 53. Paul Nixon bothered the scorers only once. Winston Benjamin chose the wrong ball to hit to the boundary, having chosen the right one the ball before, and was caught. Finally, Potter mis-hit a hook and was out for 37.

A dour stand of 35 for the ninth wicket held Kent up, but their West Indian Test batsman, Carl Hooper, took the last two wickets in an over and finished with an analysis of 4 for 55, plus two sharp slip catches. Hooper was the 'man of the day'.

Kent now need 223 to win. The wicket is taking spin and Leicestershire are bowling well. Tomorrow has the makings of another festival day.