Cricket: Kent made to toil by Windows

Gloucestershire 142 & 456 Kent 163 & 83-2
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The Independent Online
Gloucestershire 142 & 456

Kent 163 & 83-2

BOTH TEAMS need to win to retain credibility as fringe contenders but after the excitements of Friday, when 17 wickets fell, this pitch has rolled into such an eiderdown - Harry Brind probably fell asleep while watching on Saturday - that a draw is not impossible.

Kent made slow but determined progress towards their target of 436 in the 35 overs remaining last evening and were helped by the absence of Mark Alleyne from the attack. Alleyne, so often Gloucestershire's golden arm, has a strained calf muscle but may bowl today.

Gloucestershire had an overnight lead of 191 but were in no mood to permit Kent early use of this easy surface, with all the potential threat of a huge, fast innings from Carl Hooper. They added another 102 in 30 overs before the new ball at last gave Kent a weapon.

Alleyne added 83 to his first innings 55 (now that Ian Austin has been belatedly recognised, how about a cheering call from David Graveney to Gloucestershire's captain?) before becoming the first of four successive victims for the wicketkeeper Steve Marsh as Julian Thompson took 3 for 11 in 29 balls, the reward for attacking bowling to line and length, moving away into a stiff breeze.

Gloucestershire's rising batting star, Matt "Steamy" Windows, celebrated his county cap with his third championship century (192 balls, 11 fours) but his departure, at 338, brought Kent little relief, as Jack Russell, after a shaky start, got his feet and bat moving. The final humiliation for an attack shorn, by the selectors, of Dean Headley and Mark Ealham, was a last wicket stand of 55, which included sixes from Mike Smith and Courtney Walsh.

Carl Hooper bowled 44 overs but all we saw of Min Patel was occasional visits as a substitute for the limping Alan Wells. So, like much county cricket, it was over upon over of fast-medium seam bowling, which can be tedious. The virtual elimination of finger spinners from the first- class game is analogous to the removal of Mozart from the classical repertoire.