Cricket: Prichard steals Fleming's thunder

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The Independent Online
Kent 445-9 dec

Essex 257-4

IN the entertainment business, this was along the lines of anything you can do I can do better as Matthew Fleming's 132-ball century for Kent was answered by another off 96 deliveries from the Essex opener Paul Prichard. One way or another, such cavalier cricket was guaranteed to bring the house down at The Mote.

It was difficult to see how thunderbat Fleming's innings could be bettered yesterday, but when Prichard the Plunderer got cracking you knew something special was on the way. Fleming, 39 overnight, had hammered 13 boundaries by the time he signed off. Prichard, leading the champions who are missing Graham Gooch, put away 19. Both, it must be said, prospered at the expense of weakened attacks.

Still, on a slow wicket fast runs had been conspicuous by their absence until the flashing blades put in an appearance. Fleming, of course, lives by the sword and invariably dies by it, which is the attraction. He murders good bowling, let alone anything

bordering on the average, yet this was his first three-figure contribution since helping himself against Hampshire last August.

As for Prichard, his second hundred of the summer was also one of the fastest though Paul Johnson leads the way with a 73-ball smash and grab for Nottinghamshire. Then comes the Australian Damien Martyn (87 balls) and Glamorgan's Viv Richards (94), with Prichard now in fourth place. Essex, meanwhile, would wish for more of the same when it comes to the chase.

Fleming set the tone of the day when savaging 14 runs from the first over, Steve Andrew dispatched to all parts, and the Kent hitman celebrating a fifty with his third strike on the boards. Even at this stage, Derek Pringle could have been forgiven for feeling slightly suicidal bearing in mind that he had put down Fleming, when yet to trouble the scorers, at slip the previous evening.

Fleming now helped to add 120 for the sixth wicket before Mark Ealham was brilliantly held at slip by John Stephenson, one Essex player who up to this point had something to smile about. Stephenson had taken 5 for 111 come the declaration and, with a run- out to go with his catch, had a hand in seven wickets.

He would have liked a few runs, too, but the Essex innings got away to a poor start when, in the second over, Dean Headley had Stephenson taken at short-leg. Pritchard, however, rather than steady the ship, hoisted all sails to set an example that proved catching.

When Prichard was the second out, the stand with Jonathan Lewis was worth 129, and Lewis and Nadeem Shahid, who both made half-centuries, put on 107 for the third wicket.