Cricket: Lee makes Test case

Kent 201 The Australians 207-5
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The Independent Online
High summer in the Garden of England, and the living was easy for the Australians. The A (for Ashes) level results are out, and with three straight As they are making the most of their place in the sun. England, in the meantime, have to re-sit at the Oval this week to get the grades they need for further education in the Caribbean.

Yesterday the Aussies took the A train to Canterbury and gave their B team an outing. Initially, it was all too much for Kent, who won the toss and opted for the shade of the pavilion balcony. In other words, they batted first, but even a word like "batted" deserves some respect. As the scorecard reveals, with three ducks at the start and three at the end of their innings, their batting was decidedly fitful.

Not that the Australians did much better when their turn came to bat. The damage was done, in both innings, by the bowlers operating from the Nackington Road end, Mike Kasprowicz was the first to reap reward there, taking three wickets in his first three overs and not conceding a run off the bat until his fifth over. The ball swung disconcertingly away from the bat in conditions made humid by a heavy dew, and all 10 of Kent's wickets went to catches in the sweep from the wicketkeeper, Darren Berry, who held four, to gully. At third slip, Shane Lee and Ricky Ponting held beauties going low to their right.

Kent's reputation as Championship leaders was redeemed by their middle order after Ben Phillips was promoted to blunt some shine off the swinging ball. Not that he always laid his bat on it. Mark Ealham, Matthew Fleming and Steve Marsh did, however. Ealham, to the joy of a full house, deposited Kasprowicz over the square-leg fence, and Fleming earned a standing ovation after blazing his way to 67 off 79 balls with 14 fours. His dismissal by Lee precipitated a run-free collapse that brought the Test match contender four wickets in 15 balls.

Once in the field themselves, Kent refused to be shaded. Alan Igglesden, making only his fourth first-class appearance in two years, quickly located what the pitch was offering bowlers using the Nackington Road end. He claimed three of the first four Australian wickets, and Fleming again showed his competitive instincts with a direct hit from midwicket to run out Greg Blewett.

Either side of tea Steve Waugh and Ponting put on a vital 66 for the fifth wicket, both playing delightful strokes. Ponting's dismissal by Ealham left Waugh with a lot to do. But then it is his team for the match, and his response, a battling, unbeaten, 94 in a century stand with Michael Bevan, was no less than he would expect of himself. Bevan has failed to do himself justice in the Tests, but could end his tour here with a classy hundred.