Cricket: Kent look to Fleming for salvation

Worcestershire v Kent
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The Independent Online
AFTER BOTH sides had been bowled out on day one, the mandatory alert to Lord's brought the pitch inspector Chris Wood and his predecessor Harry Brind hot foot from ECB headquarters. It was the second scrutinising of New Road this season but it was all rather unnecessary given that neither umpire had seen any grounds for complaint. Still, Worcester looks picture-postcard pretty at this time of year and the Board may well feel that committee-room hospitality needs to be checked from time to time in any event.

Brind pronounced himself happy that the strip was not dangerous. If anything needed looking at it was the quality of batting, which was found wanting on both sides. Slow and without much bounce, this has not been a good surface but too many batsmen these days seem to trust nothing except fast tracks with even bounce. Present them with anything else and paranoia seems to set in. And some people would bring back uncovered pitches...

Kent, dismissed for 119 before Worcestershire tumbled for 106 on Friday, confirmed the estimation that they could hardly bat worse, although things hardly improved for Trevor Ward and Andrew Symonds, whose lack of form has been a key factor in a confidence crisis that some would suggest grips the whole Kent team.

Ward is scarcely recognisable as the fluent strokeplayer of reputation, struggling to keep his average in double figures. His one boundary yesterday was his first, incredibly, since 4 June, but he was out for 11, caught off Richard Illingworth at silly mid-off, which is about par. Symonds, who has yet to reproduce for Kent his explosive Gloucestershire form, perished leg before first ball to the off-spinner Vikram Solanki, offering no stroke. In the process he bagged a king pair, having shared with Ward the dubious distinction of falling victim to Alamgir Sheriyar's hat-trick the day before.

At least Ed Smith and Robert Key, who struck seven boundaries in his 33, had provided a decent start, taking a good deal more care before Key spooned a catch to mid-on and Smith, chasing a wide one, snicked to second slip. But after the departures of Ward and Symonds in quick succession the partnership of 56 between David Fulton and Mark Ealham was crucial as the two spinners tied Kent down.

Sheriyar came back with a brisk spell from the New Road end to separate them as Fulton was leg before and Ealham saw his leg stump clipped by one that jagged across him. Matthew Fleming now represented Kent's best chance of building a winning lead.