Cricket: Patel's spin catches eye

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Worcestershire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .202 and 422

Kent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .166 and 119-4

RAY ILLINGWORTH left after the first two days of this match, but left-arm spinners Min Patel and Richard Illingworth played as if the chairman of the selectors might pop up again at any moment.

Patel and Illingworth must both have a chance of the summons to Lord's for the first Test against South Africa this week and they played as men who think one last shove might do it.

The 24-year-old Patel, who was born in Bombay and came to Britain at the age of four, took the early honours with an impressive 18-ball spell of three wickets for four runs. It wrecked Worcestershire's middle order and briefly brought Kent back into a game in which they had been outplayed for the previous two days.

Steve Rhodes essayed a rash sweep and offered a dolly to Steve Marsh, Stuart Lampitt edged to slip two balls later and David Leatherdale was bowled round his legs.

At lunch, Patel was awarded his county cap. Perhaps the Kent committee wished to avoid the embarrassment of an uncapped player being picked for England. However, while Patel extracted plenty of turn, his control was not the equal of Phil Tufnell's, who would surely be a better bet at Lord's.

When Phil Newport was brilliantly caught by Graham Cowdrey one-handed at slip off a perfectly decent shot, Kent had surprisingly dragged themselves back into the game. Not for long. In one of those swings of fortune which give cricket its unique flavour, Illingworth and the debutant Parvez Mirza put on 102, only the second last- wicket century stand in Worcestershire's long history. Just as we were starting to wonder whether the record of 109, set in 1906, was in danger, Mirza was caught behind. It was at least a Worcestershire record 10th- wicket stand against Kent.

Illingworth, doubtless heeding his namesake's call for bowlers who can bat a bit, was undefeated on 59. And he was born in Yorkshire . . .

That left Kent with the daunting target of 459, and Illingworth was not finished yet. He got as much turn as Patel had, luring Carl Hooper to his doom and finding Neil Taylor's edge. Worcestershire should have little trouble tomorrow finishing their second Championship win of the season.