Cricket / Natwest semi-finals: Moles keeps the grand slam ambition alive

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Warwickshire 265-8

Kent 257

Warwickshire win by 8 runs

THE odds on Warwickshire completing county cricket's first grand slam had come down from a pre-season 8,000-1 to 9-4 before this match, and just when Kent were apparently about to augment their celebrations with crates of champagne from a nation's grateful bookmakers, Warwickshire kept alive their ambition of all four titles with a remarkable victory here yesterday.

Kent were coasting along at 183 for 2 from 46 overs in reply to Warwickshire's 265 for 8 when the wheels fell off in dramatic fashion, and they lost their last eight wickets for 74 to give Warwickshire victory by eight runs. If Warwickshire go on to win all four domestic trophies, the turf accountants will be writing out cheques for something like pounds 500,000.

Kent's own chagrin will have been magnified by the fact that they found some turf to play on here yesterday, and still made a mess of it. It was on this same ground, rendered unfit by a combination of rain and Warwickshire's failure to cover the square, that Kent were forced indoors to decide the Benson and Hedges quarter-final on a stump shoot-out. They lost 5-4, and snorted all the way back to Canterbury via the town of High Dudgeon.

Last night's journey was similarly morose. Warwickshire, having been put in on a pitch that - on this occasion - was drier than a ship's biscuit, looked at one stage as though they would make something in excess of 300, but in the event (under Dermot Reeve's captaincy they have learned not to lie down, however grim the situation) 265 proved to be enough.

In this type of cricket, they have also learned to make do without much of a contribution from Brian Lara, whose 29 before miscuing a return catch to Mark Ealham was well above his one-day average. In the Championship, by way of contrast, Lara averages 106.

Warwickshire's innings was, in fact, underpinned by a slightly less charismatic figure (not to mention a considerably more ample one) in Andy Moles, whose day job away from cricket is listed as 'selling corporate hospitality', and Moles's shape suggests that he samples most of the salmon and strawberries personally.

Whether he enclosed a picture when, as a Birmingham League player, he wrote round to the counties asking for a trial nine years ago, no reply was forthcoming. However, he finally convinced Warwickshire to give him a go and has been a consistent run-scorer ever since. Yesterday's 105 not out was a noble effort.

Moles slightly lost his way between reaching 50 (75 balls, seven fours) and 100 (another 87 balls, and only two more fours). It mirrored Warwickshire's lack of acceleration, in that from 127 for 3 half-way through their overs, they should have made more runs than they did.

Roger Twose's contribution of 49 off 57 balls kept the momentum going, but Warwickshire also lost Reeve at a bad time just before the final slog, and although Gladstone Small (13 runs off his first eight overs) and Tim Munton (18 off his first seven) applied the early squeeze, Kent's second wicket pair of Trevor Ward and Neil Taylor swung the initiative back their way.

Ward and Taylor put on 124 in 30 overs, and had Taylor not been brilliantly caught on the square-leg boundary by Dominic Ostler when it was short odds on the ball - from Neil Smith - going for six, Kent's momentum might have proved irrisistible.

However, once Warwickshire were back in with a sniff, Kent buckled. Keith Piper struck another crucial blow when he took a blinding catch behind the wicket to get rid of Graham Cowdrey, and when Carl Hooper slogged a catch to mid-off to be seventh out at 235, the game was up.

(Kent won toss)

WARWICKSHIRE

A J Moles not out 105

D P Ostler lbw b McCague 12

B C Lara c and b Ealham 29

P A Smith c Hooper b Ealham 5

R G Twose c Marsh b Headley 49

* D A Reeve lbw b Fleming 23

T L Penney c Marsh b Fleming 3

N M K Smith c McCague b Fleming 15

G C Small b McCague 1

K J Piper not out 6

Extras (lb14 w3) 17

Total (for 8, 60 overs) 265

Fall: 1-24 2-91 3-104 4-178 5-220 6-224 7- 248 8-250.

Did not bat: T A Munton.

Bowling: Wren 10-0-41-0; McCague 10-0- 37-2; Headley 12-0-43-1; Ealham 10-0-47-2; Hooper 12-1-55-0; Fleming 6-0-28-3.

KENT

T R Ward c N M K Smith b P A Smith 80

* M R Benson b Munton 6

N R Taylor c Ostler b N M K Smith 64

C L Hooper c N M K Smith b Reeve 44

G R Cowdrey c Piper b P A Smith 1

M V Fleming c Piper b Munton 1

M A Ealham c Small b Reeve 7

S A Marsh st Piper b Reeve 22

M J McCague run out 1

D W Headley not out 7

T N Wren run out 0

Extras (b1 lb12 w9 nb2) 24

Total (59.5 overs) 257

Fall: 1-12 2-136 3-183 4-199 5-200 6-222 7- 235 8-242 9-250.

Bowling: Small 12-3-32-0; Munton 12-3-31- 2; Reeve 11-0-44-3; P A Smith 10.5-0-66-2; N M K Smith 10-0-45-1; Twose 4-0-26-0.

Umpires: J H Hampshire and B J Meyer.

(Photograph omitted)

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