Cricket: Kent emerge top dogs

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The Independent Online
Kent 363 & 244 Durham 269 & 255 Kent win by 83 runs

There is no doubt about it, cricket is a dog's life. Kent, who finished bottom of the pile last season, are back as County Championship top dogs after Durham rolled over with a whimper and handed them a comfortable victory and maximum points here yesterday.

From the moment Carl Hooper's off-spin tempted Stewart Hutton Kent were hungry to snatch the match from their opponents. They scented victory from then on and circled their prey like a pack of wolves, picking off stragglers and strugglers and enticing away the stronger ones into ambushes.

Finally the coup de grace. A murderous burst of fast bowling by the England discard, Martin McCague, docked the Durham tail before it had much of a chance to wag, picking up two of the last three wickets, which fell in the space of a dozen balls shortly after the game entered the final 16 overs.

Durham are now without a win in their opening 10 matches, while Kent are five points clear this morning. McCague's three wickets took his tally to 38 and there was an encouraging trio of victims for Dean Headley. Unfortunately, having returned to action following a serious hip problem, Headley, nicknamed "Frog", had to hop out of the action shortly before McCague began the last rites. He strained his left ankle, although he was confident of being fit for the NatWest Trophy second round tie at Derby tomorrow.

Given their record this season, the 328 runs that Durham needed for victory when they set out yesterday were always going to be too many, but they had all second-innings wickets standing and Sherwin Campbell, the West Indies Test opener, wanted a second Championship century to convince sceptical Durham fans that he is worthy signing. He did not get it. After nearly four hours of graft he could not resist a slash at Nigel Llong and fell in the gully 15 runs short of three figures.

With him went any realistic hopes of a Durham win, yet there was always the hope that they could hold out for the draw. But when the captain, Mike Roseberry, still battling for form despite a first-innings half-century, departed for an ineffectual 17 only Phil Bainbridge stood in the way of annihilation, and his hour and a half of snarling at the Kent predators was wiped out when McCague thundered in from the Rugby End and sparked a savage finish.

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