Cricket: Seventh Ealham

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The Independent Online
Hampshire 298 and 182; Kent 273 and 8-0

KENT forced their way back into this game and continued their impressive run. Since they beat Yorkshire in July they have barely lost, propelling themselves from the foot of the table to the edge of the top six. Yesterday they restricted Hampshire to a minimal firstinnings lead and then whittled through their second.

The man who did the damage was Mark Ealham, a player of the type Ray Illingworth is keen to have filling the No 6 slot for England. Like Craig White he is primarily a batsman, but he also bowls a bustling right arm over. Aided by an uncertain pitch, he helped himself to seven wickets. The only concern for Kent is that the pitch may be brought to the attention of the authorities.

The first to go was Tony Middleton edging the ball to Carl Hooper at second slip. Next to fall was Robin Smith attempting to hook a short ball, only to be trapped leg before. They were rapidly followed by Paul Terry and Mark Nicholas who both lost their off stumps to balls that kept low. The score was 71 and Hampshire had lost their top five batsmen.

With Ealham out of the attack, Adrian Aymes and Kevan James shared a partnership of 52 in 32 overs. It was valiant but dull. Ealham returned and promptly dismissed them both: Aymes athletically caught behind by Stephen Marsh and James leg before playing across the line. A few balls later Martin Jean-Jacques was caught by Hooper in the slips.

Without contributions down the order of 36 from Shaun Udal and 20 from Cardigan Connor, Hampshire's cause would have been hopeless. As it is, they have a chance - but only a slim one.

Earlier Kent had edged to within 24 of Hampshire's first innings total. Hooper, who had raced to an impressive 100 in only 102 balls the previous evening was strangely reticent. He appeared content to merelywatch as his team-mates contrived to get themselves out. This they did rapidly.

Only after 70 minutes did Hooper awake and strike his first boundary of the innings. Immediately afterwards he delicately cut the ball straight to Udal at first slip. His 138 was his fourth century of the season and comprised over 50 percent of the Kent total. No other Kent player managed to top 20.