Cricket: Kent enjoy purple patch

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The Independent Online
Warwickshire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .305 and 213

Kent. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .177

AS CANTERBURY tales go, this one has a distinct touch of the Pardoner's about it. With both sides deprived of their main strike bowler, the pitch too morose to encourage strokes and Warwickshire's slim order disinclined to press on with any urgency, the temptation to spend a gusty afternoon huddled in the Frank Woolley Stand was far from irresistible.

For Kent, however, there were several reasons to be cheerful. Having averted the follow-on by a whisker, they absorbed the absence of Martin McCague and his sore back well enough to take 7 for 60 during one purple patch.

At the end of it, Warwickshire were 127 for 8, 256 on, whereupon their new captain, Dermot Reeve, was joined by Ashley Giles, the lanky debutant left- arm spinner, in a stand of 57. By the time Matthew Fleming bowled Tim Munton in the final over, the target, 342, had gone from eminently feasible to arduous.

Having served a one-month suspension for negotiating with another club behind his then employer's back, Dean Headley, late of Lord's, made a significant contribution to the home revival in his first Championship outing for Kent.

Considering that his grandfather, George Headley, was the 'black Bradman' and that his father, Ron, opened for the West Indies, it might be reasonable to suppose that the dynasty's latest member would be a more natural batsman than bowler. In fact, belligerent stroke-player though he can be, Headley mark three is more adept with the seam, as he demonstrated by darting deliveries away to have Roger Twose and Trevor Penney caught behind.

His second spell, nine overs for nine runs, would have been even more admirable had the batsmen been interested in disturbing his rhythm.

Jason Ratcliffe and Andy Moles partially atoned for Twose's early exit, adding 53 before Fleming trapped Ratcliffe with one that crept a shade. This brought in Dominic Ostler, who may well become the first top- drawer batsman to emerge from Edgbaston since Dennis Amiss retired but evidently has trouble judging a run.

Pushing Richard Davis towards mid-off, he summoned the less-than-sylph-like Moles through a single, then thought better of it. For Moles, though, the about-turn was neither desirable nor practical and the ratty swish of the bat that followed Headley's accurate throw underlined the gravity of the error.

Moles had been his customary, acquisitive if sedate, self, reaching 50 with a brace of boundaries in Davis's opening over. He persuaded the bowler to surrender his subtlety of flight in a 32-over stint that produced the wicket of Michael Burns and scarcely a ball on off-stump.

The less easily daunted Carl Hooper idled at slip throughout, bar one cursory sortie before lunch: a waste of a player bubbling over with adrenaline having recently come of age in the West Indies' series against Pakistan. Typically, when the off- spinner returned after tea, it was his dipping yorker that lured Giles into a fatal heave.

The sight of the normally hyperactive Reeve snoozing through 40 overs for the first 33 of his ultimately priceless unbeaten 72 encapsulated the drabness of the fare even better than an overall run-rate of less than two an over.

Then again, this particular Reeve's tale is rarely predictable. Last Sunday, this seemingly quick-witted player was scribbling his imprimatur inside the neck of his brand-new dayglo shirt until it was discreetly pointed out that his name was emblazoned in three-inch capitals across the back.