Cricket: McCague's fire ignites Kent

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The Independent Online
Kent 189 and 164-3

Gloucestershire 175

THE BATTLE so far, a low-scoring encounter until yesterday afternoon, could hardly be more even after Martin McCague, the man of the moment, matched Courtney Walsh's 5 for 50 on the first day with a return of 5 for 42. It was the strapping fast bowler's fourth five-wicket helping in seven matches, Kent picking themselves up here for a narrow lead on first innings.

This was a real plus after a number of poor shots had presented Gloucestershire with cheap wickets and Kent, running second 24 points behind Essex at the start of four crucial days in the Championship, were pleased to pick up the maximum bonus on the bowling front. Thanks to McCague, the champions are still just visible on the brow of the hill.

With Fred Titmus present in his role as an England observer, the 23-year-old Irish-born Australian was well fired up and coming in like a train. Banging the ball in hard, he intimidates batsmen and on a day when the wind was strong enough to dislodge the bails, Gloucestershire were entitled to feel a little windy themselves.

McCague's rush of wickets may have come late in the season and he really made a name for himself at the beginning of the month, his 8 for 26 against Hampshire here the best by any bowler this summer. He also came away with a seven-up 10 days later against Leicestershire at Grace Road and it was now the turn of Gloucestershire to see what they could make of the 6ft 5in, 16-stoner.

Booked to return home at the end of the season and battle for a place in the Western Australia side, McCague's trip Down Under could instead be as a member of the England A tour party. After taking his first wicket the previous day, he had an early success when Mark Alleyne presented Trevor Ward with a catch at short-leg.

With Richard Ellison and Alan Igglesden pushing home the Kent advantage by taking a couple of wickets apiece, McCague next had Bill Athey bottom-edging a yorker into his stumps. Then, when he was brought back in the afternoon, his first delivery beat Tony Wright, the Gloucestershire captain who had held himself back at No 8 because of a hand injury. Martin Gerrard, with a duck, completed the haul.

Kent, then, had poked their noses in front and they now built upon this with the best batting so far once Mark Benson was out lbw. Neil Taylor led the charge, such was the carnage, that he scored 71 in a three-figure partnership with Ward.

The pair were eventually separated 20 runs later when Ward pulled a short one from Justin Vaughan to Gerrard at mid-on. Taylor, meanwhile, was within sight of breaking the record number of centuries made on this ground by a Kent batsman, a round dozen which he shares with Frank Woolley and Colin Cowdrey. The number 13, though, proved unlucky, Taylor top-edging Vaughan to Walsh running round from mid- off. There were 13 boundaries in his 118-ball stay for 96, Kent closing for bad light 178 ahead.

Mike Procter has been appointed South African team manager, casting doubt on his future as Northamptonshire's director of cricket.