Cricket: Initiative seized by captain Marsh

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Kent 245 & 440; Sussex 264 & 31-1

Not even Mystic Meg could have predicted the goings-on here yesterday. First the wickets tumbled, then the records during a remarkable day. The bottom line was that Kent tore the initiative, advantage and everything else out of Sussex's grasp.

Sussex dominated proceedings for the first two days and 40 minutes before Kent finally woke up. Their captain, Steve Marsh, accompanied first by Paul Strang, then the inexperienced Ben Phillips, inspired a startling recovery, hauling Kent around from a parlous 197 for 8 into a seemingly impregnable position, which left Sussex needing 422 to win in three and a bit sessions.

The only glimmer of hope for Sussex is that in 1991 they scored 436 in the fourth innings to tie a Championship match at Hove against the same opponents. Victory is certainly feasible, but unlikely. Not unless they have someone who can take the bowling by the scruff of the neck as Marsh did on his way to a career-best 142.

Strang may have scored only 17, but when he was out shortly before lunch he had helped add 60 for the ninth wicket. That brought Phillips to the crease. He was not to leave it for more than three hours.

By that time the tenth wicket pair had passed Kent's previous partnership best of 89 against Sussex, made 111 years ago. Their stand of 183 is the second- highest by a last wicket pair in Kent's history, bettered only by Frank Woolley and Arthur Fielder's 235 against Worcestershire in 1909, and the sixth highest in the County Championship.

Sussex tried everything to break it including 17 bowling changes. In the end it was as much exhaustion on Marsh's part that finished things, when he skied a ball and Toby Radford ran in from the boundary to take the catch. Marsh had been batting for the best part of five hours, hitting three sixes and 13 fours off the 216 balls faced. On the way he had ensured that Phillips completed an unusual double. Having taken a career-best 5 for 47 in the Sussex first innings, he scored his maiden first-class half-century, finishing unbeaten on 65.

But the day belonged to Marsh - he even took a stunning catch to dismiss Radford when Sussex began the long road to rescuing the game.

Kent's batting has come under fearful stick of late and four wickets went down for the addition of 39 runs before Marsh stepped in. He is no mug with the bat and his only false stroke came when he was on 77, Vasbert Drakes holding on to a catch but toppling over the rope to give the batsman six.

Another costly drop was perpetrated a little earlier by the unfortunate Mark Newell at square-leg who got both hands to a shot by Phillips when the 22-year-old had made just 19, but failed to hang on to the ball.