Cricket: Hooper spins web

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Kent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .385

Durham . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .196 and 254-5

IT IS rare for the day's minimum tally of 110 overs to be completed with more than an hour to go, and yesterday a sizeable crowd here were given good value not only in number of overs but also in an entertaining change of fortune late in the day.

A stand of 165 between two quality batsmen desperately out of form lately, John Morris and Phil Bainbridge, interrupted Kent's march and even gave Durham a glint of hope in a game that the home side might have wrapped up by evening.

These teams began the game nestling just three bonus points apart in mid-table, but statistics can be deceptive. Durham's three wins came early in the season and they have lost their last six Championship games, whereas Kent's three victories have come in a recent burst. So while Durham are floating downwards, Kent are confident.

On a scruffy-looking wicket, the spinners Carl Hooper and Min Patel continued their probing yesterday morning, when Durham began at 81 for three, 155 short of avoiding the follow-on. In Hooper's first over, a ball that looked innocent until it hit the turf burrowed beneath Bainbridge's bat, and the spinners sensed it was to be their morning.

What devils they could not conjure from the strip were created in the minds of Durham's batsmen, and the visitors subsided in a flurry of top-edged sweeps, desperate hoicks and a hesitant run-out. Only the belligerence of Mark Saxelby and Anderson Cummins delayed the follow-on, but Durham were batting again before lunch. Hooper had teased out five wickets in his best return for Kent, and Patel was almost as productive.

Saxelby resumed with his opening partner, Jonathan Longley, and they knew that circumspection would not serve a dying cause. They sped past 50 but the spinners were soon reintroduced - strangely, at the opposite ends to their earlier success. As soon as this was corrected, Hooper removed both batsmen, and Morris and Bainbridge began their pugnacious double act, sweeping Durham into the lead. At stumps, though, they and Jimmy Daley had gone and Kent were back on course.