Cricket: McCague making merry

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Kent 360 and 195

Gloucestershire 271 and 234

Kent won by 50 runs

WHEN Kent reduced Gloucestershire to 94 for seven midway through yesterday afternoon the most straightforward of victories seemed theirs for the taking. Set a target of 285, Gloucestershire looked ready to do what most people in the crowd must have felt like on a stifling hot day - curling up and going to sleep.

They lay down in the end, beaten by 50 runs. But thanks to an eighth-wicket partnership of 127 between Mark Alleyne and Courtney Walsh, a match which at one stage was as drained of colour as the parched outfield produced many more moments of vividness than anyone could have expected.

As orders go, this one was as tall as Walsh himself. Gloucestershire's batting until then had been woeful, but with Alleyne a model of application and Walsh choosing the right balls at which to swing his bat, the prospect of victory became less and less far-fetched.

Kent had begun to get very frustrated indeed when, with Gloucestershire having progressed to within 64 runs of victory, Alleyne pushed defensively at a ball from Carl Hooper and it bounced off his pads into Trevor Ward's hands at short leg. Kent's appeal was less vociferous than many, but to the dismay of Alleyne the umpire gave him out.

As long as Walsh was there, Gloucestershire's hopes were still alive, but when Stuart Marsh stumped him off the bowling of Min Patel there was only ever going to be one result. Walsh's 66, his highest score in the Championship, was all the braver for the pain he was in from a neck injury he suffered in a road accident last week.

Perhaps the happiest man on the Kent side was their opening bowler Martin McCague, who toiled through the steaming afternoon to pick up four wickets, making nine in the match. He generated the sort of pace and bounce that Brian Bolus, the England selector who was present, will have noted with approval.

That Kent were able to set Gloucestershire a target that was always going to be hard to reach on an awkward wicket was largely thanks to a steady 68 not out by Mark Ealham and a nifty 30 by Patel. Resuming on 117 for six overnight, Kent's total of 195 was one with which they could have felt very satisfied. But then came Alleyne and Walsh and the heroics were just beginning.