Cricket: Outside chance for Kent

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The Independent Online
Kent 324 & 351-8 dec

Leicestershire 431 & 173-6

With an hour remaining, Leicestershire needed 119 to win with eight wickets in hand, and they had Phil Simmons, from Trinidad, itching to give Carl Hooper, the Georgetown boy, the full force of his broad blade. By the close, with a cosy knot of fielders gathering around grimly defensive batsmen, Kent, the Championship leaders going into this round, had caught the strongest whiff of victory, but had looked less like potential pennant winners than their opponents.

Indeed, had Leicestershire not squandered a strong position with some wasteful cricket on Friday, Kent might never have had even half the chance that eventually came their way. Last year's wooden spoon side ought to be capable of rather better things this year but their title credentials are unconvincing.

Having conceded a first-innings lead of 107, Kent's position yesterday morning, when they resumed 78 in front with all their wickets standing, took some explaining, at least so far as Leicestershire were concerned. Matthew Fleming, in the adventurous style he favours, had taken a heavy toll of the home side's spin bowlers on a pitch that was turning only slowly.

All the signs were that a deal would need to be struck between the captains to manufacture the circumstances for a positive outcome. In the event, thanks largely to the success of Matthew Brimson, the cricket was authentic throughout.

Fleming added only three to his overnight score before he was caught, bat and pad, off Adrian Pierson. But it was the off-spinner's partner, Brimson, who did most to regain the initiative for Leicestershire.

For the Plumstead-born bowler, whose five for 97 was a career best, it was something of a personal triumph. He spent a summer on Kent's books in 1991, but his attempt to establish himself coincided with the emergence of Min Patel.

Given that he had nought for 52 from nine overs at Friday's close, Brimson's final figures were all the more startling. It was a worthy effort, in conditions that allowed little margin for error, although he cannot pretend that luck was not heavily on his side.

Brimson had David Fulton caught at slip from a ball pitched well outside off-stump, and saw Trevor Ward drive a full toss to extra cover, where Darren Maddy, for the second time in the match, dismissed him with a fine catch. Hooper, who had just pulled Pierson for six, was caught almost on the rope. To cap all of those, Mark Ealham was stumped by a ball that rebounded off the wicketkeeper's pads. At least Steven Marsh, his fifth success, was an authentic victim of turn and bounce.

From 301 for six, Kent recovered through the efforts of Graham Cowdrey and Martin McCague only to fall back again, and in the circumstances their declaration at 351 for eight was generous, leaving Leicestershire to chase 245 from what turned out to be 48 overs - an equation tilted towards the home side.

James Whitaker, fending off McCague, was an early casualty but a stand of 107 in 29 overs between Ben Smith and Vince Wells appeared to put Leicestershire on course.

But the loss of Smith, caught at long-on off Hooper, undermined their prospects and when Wells, Simmons and Maddy departed in consecutive overs, Leicestershire were forced to abandon the pursuit.

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