Cricket: Hooper's hundred counts for Kent

Notts 309 and 307-5 dec Kent 283 and 334-7 Kent win by 3 wickets
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The Independent Online
APPEARANCES are deceptive. What had seemed to be a safe declaration when Nottinghamshire laid down their token gauntlet for kent some 35 minutes after lunch, was renedered hopelessly inadequate by as exhilarating and clinical a demolition of an attack as anyone could hope to see. Carl Hooper at his best is the best. He scored a wonderful hundred, only his second of the season, and went a long way to helping Kent record only their second championship win of the season.

There were one or two wobbles on the way and sadly Hooper was unable to be there at the finish, but the Kent cause was in safe hands. Alan Wells scoring a perfectly judged and flawless unbeaten 78 to steer Kent home with 15 balls to spare. And throughout the riveting afternoon's play there was an intriguing sideshow to the contest. In the Nottinghamshire attack was a certain Paul Strang, who stood in for Hooper as Kent's overseas player last season.

There was absolutely no doubt who won that particular duel either. Strang may have finished with five wickets, but the price was very high, because the Zimbabwean leg-spinner caught the brunt of the Hooper hurricane. No fewer than seven of the West Indies all-rounder's eight 6s came off Strang, swept contemptuously for the most part over mid-wicket, although one straight blow smashed against the top of the 60ft-high Frank Woolley stand, having carried fully 100 yards. It was little wonder his analysis read 5 for 166.

It was a shattering series of blows and although Nottinghamshire came back bravely once Hooper was out the great man had done more than enough to leave Wells a relative straightforward passage to victory. Hooper had arrived at the crease to a sound foundation at 74 for two. After Paul Johnson's declaration, Kent had decided they would have a go and openers David Fulton and Robert Key set about an attack shorn of the services of Andy Oram and Matthew Dowman, although the latter did hobble in for one over amid the carnage.

Fulton pulled Mark Bowen for a four and a six in the first over, although sadly he did not last long, falling to a freak catch by Robinson at short leg after middling a ball from Franks. Matthew Fleming came, clobbered and went after 19 balls, but that merely introduced Hooper to the fray. He had soon lofted the first of his sixes off Strang. Key fell within sight of his half-century but that merely triggered Hooper's incredible innings. The bare statistics - 104 minutes, 97 balls, eight sixes, nine fours - cannot describe the fantastic footwork, the stunning strokeplay and the raw power of the innings.

His departure left everyone speechless for a few seconds. He had looked invincible and when he gave Usman Afzaal the charge no one expected him to miss the ball and leave wicketkeeper Chris Read to make a sharp stumping.

Never mind. Wells stayed there for 104 balls, one six and a clutch of boundaries. The fast bowler Martin McCague did his bit as well, following up his first-innings 38 with a very fine unbeaten 25, which included a couple of hefty sixes.