Cricket: Hooper strikes light in Kentish gloom

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The Independent Online
Lancashire 192; Kent 193-4

Kent win by six wickets

SHAKEN, stirred and distinctly strained summed up Kent's after-match dressing-room reflections, but ultimate relief following a miserable match, played in unrelenting gloom. After winning with 7.3 overs to spare, they remained two points behind Glamorgan, the Sunday League leaders.

Carl Hooper, batting in semi-darkness and heavy drizzle, engineered their 11th win in 15 matches by making 87 not out from 162 balls and sharing a vigorous unbroken partnership of 82 in 13 overs with Nigel Llong.

Hooper's seventh half century, alongside a hundred, swept him to 777 runs in the competition this summer, 140 short of Tom Moody's record set for Worcestershire two years ago. Kent needed his contribution, because when drizzle set in after 30 overs, they were 0.09 runs behind on the required striking rate, with four wickets down.

Kent had weathered a half-century from 87 balls by Graham Lloyd, the Lancashire opener, and survived problems of their own making, three consecutive run-out dismissals, which kept Lancashire running.

Temporarily, Lancashire cast aside uncertainty about the immediate future. A meeting over next season's contracts in the morning brought no statement. To add fuel, rumours were rife over a possible switch of captaincy, with Michael Watkinson taking over from Neil Fairbrother.

After winning the toss and opting to field, Kent could have rued batting in the worst light, but their tactic was rewarded because Lancashire struggled to control a wet ball. Phillip DeFreitas lost his grip on one delivery and bowled a wide which ended at deep gully. Ironically, DeFreitas had run out David Fulton and Jonathan Longley with two master strokes. John Crawley's throw also beat Mark Ealham, seeking a streaky second.

Hooper's strokeplay complemented the earlier efficiency of Matthew Fleming, whose 4 for 46, including two wickets in his final over, stopped Lancashire in their tracks. No slouch with the ball either, Hooper sent down 10 overs for 21 runs. Lancashire batted poorly and needed the recuperative powers of Wasim Akram, Watkinson and DeFreitas to guide their innings away from premature extinction at 100 for 5 with 16 overs remaining.

As if to foreshadow the day's pattern, Lloyd had been run out by Fleming, it was a costly dismissal for Lancashire, struggling to climb out of the chasm engulfing them since losing in the Benson and Hedges Cup final almost two months ago.