Cricket: Patel makes splash

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The Independent Online
Kent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .556

Lancashire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .171-4

THE Kent players were keenly disappointed to be awoken yesterday morning by the rattle of rain on the windows, and when they arrived at the St Lawrence Ground a downpour left rivers on an already soggy outfield.

The weather gods appear to have taken against four-day cricket and decided simply to carry on with the three-day version: it seems to have hardly stopped raining since the start of the 1993 season. After three wades to the wicket, the umpires were forced to concede defeat at 4pm here.

Rarely can a team have topped 500 without one or two centuries, but Kent's 556 contained decent contributions from their top eight batsmen, with the captain Mark Benson's 90 the closest to three figures.

The most exhilarating batting came in Matthew Fleming's 72. In making his highest score of the season he proved once more that Surrey's David Ward is not the only player who strides out of the pavilion looking for an argument with the bowlers. Neither they nor the like-minded Martin Speight of Sussex would look out of place in an England one-day squad on current form.

But the man with most to prove is Kent's left-arm spinner Min Patel, and he has made his case here most eloquently. It is five years since the Bombay- born Dartford man first appeared for Kent, at which time Richard Davis - also a left- arm spinner who bats right - had a head start on him. Patel's opportunities since have been sporadic, but now Davis is twirling for Warwickshire and the understudy has the stage.

On Friday afternoon, Patel batting at No 10, chipped his way to 39 runs before being last out, and after tea took the four Lancashire wickets to fall in 26 overs of miserly bowling.

It would be asking a lot for the home side to find 16 wickets on Monday out of a pitch that has yielded them 556 runs, and two artificial declarations are likely if the captains are in gambling mood. But whatever happens, Patel has made his mark.