Cricket: Hooper shows his wayward side as Kent take it slow

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Sussex 189 & 46-0 Kent 211

ON A day when for white-knuckle excitement the cricket competed with the Ladies' Hat competition, Kent laboriously took first innings advantage on a low, slow wicket. Had this not been Tunbridge Wells, where the demeanour of the crowd suits the tranquil beauty of the ground, the cricket might have followed its dogged course against a wall of barracking.

Yet this gritty contest remains intriguing. Weather permitting an important result will come from what has so far been a tight battle between two sides high in the table - Sussex began the match in second place, Kent in fifth. And there is always interest in watching young players, or those who must fight for a first team place, working hard to secure their future. In this respect, Kent's 19-year-old opener Robert Key, and the stocky Matthew Walker, who has also opened the innings in the past, did themselves justice in nursing the home side to what was only their fifth batting point of the season, the other four being donated by Durham.

However, those who saw Carl Hooper's sublime innings of 94 at The Oval on Saturday were now witness to his other side. When graft was required, he wafted an off-side three, drove Mark Robinson back over the bowler's head and then departed, lbw attempting an absent-minded smear towards mid-wicket.

Sussex, having only reached 189 on Wednesday needed their bowlers to apply themselves yesterday, and this they did. Jason Lewry was the most threatening and Keith Newell was economical, while Robinson took the big wickets of Hooper and Alan Wells.

Kent's stubborn tail delayed tea until 5 o'clock, and the second innings got under way late on a long day. By stumps, Sussex were beginning to set their target.