Cricket: Kent defied by the two Darrens

Yorkshire 312 Kent 79-1
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Darren Gough's love of the dramatic has always been one of his many assets. Unfortunately for Kent, the County Championship leaders, he chose yesterday to make another grand gesture, this time with the bat, by scoring a flamboyant half-century, as he and Darren Lehmann, who scored 87, added 117 runs in 19 overs for the seventh wicket.

With runs coming at six an over, it was an extraordinary stand by the two Darrens. Right from the outset, when Gough tried to launch his first ball into the Western terrace, it was a partnership defined by a severe contrast of styles, with Lehmann's assured strokeplay being offset by the fast bowler's muscular thrashing and pulling.

Coming in when his team were balking on 137 for 6 - only the captain David Byas with 59 got a start - it was Gough's highest score of the season, surpassing the 34 he made against Durham. As an irritant, it was about as welcome as a blighted hop crop, and it could still happen that supporters of Glamorgan or Yorkshire could end the season being more grateful than those from Kent, should the visitors fail to get on terms later today.

Lehmann, as he has done all season, played with a superb sense of duty. He has rid himself of the youthful and sometimes ill-tempered impetuosity of his youth and replaced it with something far more solid and unflappable.

Like all the best batsmen however, the South Australian has an unerring ability to find the gaps, and yesterday anything hit with power rarely encountered a fielder. Judging from comments that have been circulating around Headingley all season, he is better regarded and more popular than Michael Bevan, and Lehmann returns as Yorkshire's overseas player next season.

On a sluggish, mottled pitch with enough in it for play to alternate between periods of runscoring and rapid bursts of wickets, Kent had their chances of controlling the match and making light of losing what may prove to be an important toss as the pitch wears.

Unable to field either of their fast bowlers, Martin McCague and Ben Phillips, suffering from a back strain and shin soreness respectively, Kent were forced to call up Alan Igglesden for only his fourth Championship match of the season.

Cricket may be perceived as slow moving, but in terms of career prospects the game can move quickly. Four years ago, Igglesden toured the West Indies with England. Yesterday, he took 4 for 67, a spell that included the chance of a hat-trick, after he had removed Craig White and Bradley Parker with successive balls. He was also the man who got the match rolling when he had Tony McGrath lbw in the fourth over of the day.

But if Igglesden's performance was an unexpected boon, Kent, despite picking up maximum bowling points, will be kicking themselves for not making a better fist of bowling Yorkshire out for less than 312. According to the fielding side, however, a heavy dew made the ball go soft quickly, and it was certainly noticeable that when Strang came on in the 10th over, he needed to dry the ball after almost every delivery.

Wet ball aside, only Mark Ealham, as he often was with England, was immune from criticism, as Dean Headley and Paul Strang conceded runs at an alarming rate. Indeed it was Ealham who took all the important wickets, removing both Gough and Lehmann, the latter to a well disguised bouncer that surprised the Australian who gently paddled it to the keeper, Steve Marsh.

Mind you, Marsh would have probably settled for Kent to negotiate the tricky 17 overs at the end of the day for the loss of one wicket. Having seen off the new ball, Ed Smith, a Cambridge undergraduate and sweet timer, drove Chris Silverwood loosely to gully. If such unforced errors can be avoided when Kent bat today, they may yet get another chance to dominate this match.