Cricket: Marsh takes Kent to top

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The Independent Online
Hampshire 406 Kent 350-8 dec Match drawn

Rain squalls and damp bowlers' run-ups failed to prevent Kent from accruing the four bonus batting points which, combined with the three earned in the field and the three for a draw, make them joint leaders with unfortunate Glamorgan.

Kent have a difficult run-in, however, playing third-placed Gloucestershire this week at Canterbury in a crucial match for both sides' title aspirations, and then Yorkshire, who in fourth place are leading the chasing pack, at Headingley.

The Kent players were relieved at Gloucestershire's narrow defeat by Nottinghamshire, after they themselves had struggled to the required 350. Trevor Ward hit 42 of the 67 runs to come before tea and Kent reached the interval in a commanding position, needing 101 more runs for the crucial points.

Cricket, however, takes perverse delight in tripping up the overconfident and after tea Alan Wells lifted Shaun Udal to long-on and Ward skied an ambitious hook shot. Both were excessively aggressive shots bred from complacency. Simon Renshaw then removed Graham Cowdrey and Matthew Fleming in quick succession and Kent were now forced to struggle for every run - a situation exacerbated by Udal's defensive tactics of bowling round the wicket.

With John Stephenson off the field and one wicket needed for the last bowling point, acting captain Robin Smith gambled on the rarely seen leg- spin of Giles White. A bold move considering the batting point at stake, but one rewarded with an excellent first over.

His next, however, saw Steve Marsh gratefully collect the 15 runs needed, but not without some good fortune. The first delivery was a full toss promptly dispatched to deep midwicket. Next ball, Marsh charged down the wicket but only succeeded in hitting the ball straight to Smith at mid-on, who dropped the catch. A classic drive brought four runs off the next delivery and a swept single ensured the point before the declaration.

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