Cricket: Kent lifted to victory by Walker

BENSON AND HEDGES CUP: Warwickshire ambushed but Surrey, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire triumph
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The Independent Online
Warwickshire 304-8 Kent 306-6 Kent win by 4 wickets

A match of two fine innings, a couple of crucial injuries, three umpires and a whole heap of runs was also given a liberal dose of drama, as Kent achieved the rare distinction of batting second and scoring more than 300 runs to win a Benson and Hedges Cup tie.

Twice the umpires called for their own third man, Trevor Jesty, to adjudicate for run-outs during the Kent chase. Matthew Fleming was not given the benefit of the doubt, but Graham Cowdrey, much later on, was.

In four meetings Warwickshire have yet to beat them on the field, their only triumph over Kent coming three years ago in a bowl-out in the indoor school at Edgbaston. They must be wondering what they have to do to overcome Kent out in the middle, especially after Neil Smith had blasted his way to a magnificent century after Warwickshire had opted to bat.

When they took the field things went wrong from the start. Allan Donald, Warwickshire's South African fast bowler, sent down 13 wides in his opening over, and then, at the end of his second in which he bowled another one, pulled up with a back injury. But Warwickshire did not roll over. Not even when it became clear that wicketkeeper Keith Piper was limping.

Kent, though, proved unstoppable. They countered Smith's century with an equally fine hundred by the chunky Matthew Walker. He has been in blisteringly good form in one-day cricket in general and this competition in particular. He has now passed fifty in four out of five B&H innings this summer, this one by far his best, and he picked up the Gold Award for it.

Walker's innings was crammed with cultured strokes; clean cuts and devastating drives. His placement at times was breathtaking in its precision, and his certitude at the crease for the three hours he was there was wonderfully uplifting for the Kent supporters. His fall brought anguished groans from the home crowd. He played around an Ashley Giles delivery and was bowled for a career best 117, having launched three sixes and smacked a dozen other boundaries.

But the Kent innings, far from losing its momentum, picked up if anything as Cowdrey (39 not out) and Mark Ealham upped the pace and, although Kent lost the England man, Cowdrey saw them home.

Smith's hundred had been altogether more brutal but no less pleasurable to watch. Like Walker, he had been in at the start and, like the diminutive Kent batsman, it was a career best in the competition. He too faced 119 deliveries and also hit three sixes, but he managed one more four and eight more runs.

Like Walker, he proved impossible to contain. He was seeing the ball early, the fielders were picking it up late. By the time he did fall trying to hit Ealham out of the ground, Warwickshire were well on their way to a daunting total. Fleming did hoover up four useful wickets and Ealham a couple but, like their opponents later in the day, Kent found it difficult to contain the runs on an extremely good batting wicket.

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