Cricket: Kent duo stake their England claims

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The Independent Online
Sussex168 and 59-1

Kent200-5 dec

THE secret service may have crept from the shadows only this week but the England committee's spies were ordered to go public a couple of years ago having gone undercover so successfully that counties complained they were being ignored.

So it was no surprise to see Fred Titmus, sartorially elegant in dark blazer and matching blood-red tie and pocket handkerchief, making himself very visible before play began yesterday.

His appearance had the desired effect with Martin McCague and Alan Igglesden taking just eight overs to register a late reminder to Ted Dexter's selection committee before it meets tonight.

McCague's bounce gained him two wickets and Igglesden's movement one as Sussex, 157 for 7 overnight, were dismissed for 168.

But having begun the day on a high, the pair ended it less enthusiastically, both failing to strike as Kent, having boldly declared just 32 ahead, watched Sussex move 27 runs into the lead by the close for the loss of Jamie Hall, to Richard Davis' off-spin.

Fortunately for the duo both Titmus and Lord Ted himself, who had appeared in mid-afternoon, were not to be seen by then. Dexter, judging by the eagerness with which he demonstrated his golf swing, had presumably left to follow a sport where an Englishman is still regarded as the world's best. His timing may not have been ideal when it came to watching England prospects but he did see the best batting of the day - even if it came from the West Indian Carl Hooper

Hooper has been in rich form and yesterday he was a class apart, especially against the spinners, lifting Eddie Hemmings' second ball for six and savaging Ian Salisbury. He made 65 of an 80-run partnership with Neil Taylor that stabilised a Kent innings which had begun badly, Tony Pigott deceiving both Mark Benson and Trevor Ward in his first four overs.

Pigott returned to dismiss Hooper but an out-of-form Taylor - his mind concentrated by the recall of an extra batsman, Graham Cowdrey - was unbeaten on 74 when Kent declared.

The decision, intended to keep alive a match ravaged by rain, has yet to pay off but for Igglesden the best news of the day was that he survived it. Given recent fortune for the guy who wants to come in from the cold, that is an achievement in itself.