Cricket: Smith proves himself to be master of the marathon

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The Independent Online
Warwickshire . . . . . . . . . . . . .305 and 213

Kent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .177 and 231

Warwickshire win by 110 runs

THERE WAS a marathon going on here, a fascinating two-man affair that ran virtually all day long. As in all such races, it was the survival of the fittest and after 323 minutes at the crease, Mark Benson was eventually beaten, a valiant century behind him. To the victor, then, the spoils - Neil Smith's career-best 6 for 122 taking Warwickshire to their second Championship win.

Counting last season's penultimate outing against Middlesex at Lords, Smith has now taken five wickets or better in three of his last five matches and it was his 5 for 81 at Egbaston earlier this month that resulted in defeat for Northamptonshire. Yesterday at the St Lawrence Ground, though, he entered unknown territory.

Smith came on to bowl the first over of the morning at 11.42 and he sent the last of his off-breaks down at 5.50, an unchanged spell of 46.1 overs. They awarded him his county cap soon after he had claimed his final wicket, although it was debatable whether he would have the strength to put it on. 'Never before and never again,' the 25-year-old son of M J K Smith said on the dressing-room balcony of his feat. Dermot Reeve, his captain, said: 'I considered taking him off a couple of times but he was bowling so well that I decided to let him get on with it.'

Kent had started the day with a clean sheet and made it 342 for victory. Initially, they made a fair fist of it but there were signs of some turn and uneven bounce, plus a patch of rough for the left-hander Benson to negotiate at the Nackington Road end. The Kent captain, made light of it as he headed off towards his second century of the season. With Trevor Ward - fresh from answering the call with 99 the previous day in the Sunday league - for company, 65 had gone on the board before Smith arrived to bowl Ward for 34.

There was another half-century partnership to come next, too, Neil Taylor taking liberties by straight- driving Smith for six. But Smith had his revenge when he had Taylor leg before and he picked up a real prize in his next over, Carl Hooper stumped.

Ashley Giles next removed Graham Cowdrey, three wickets having gone down for seven runs in seven overs since lunch and any thoughts of Kent reaching their target disappeared once Matthew Fleming, who struck four handsome boundaries, fell to Tim Munton.

It was then a question of weeding out the last five wickets and once Smith had Benson taken at slip by Reeve for 107 the outcome was never really in doubt.

Scoreboard, page 31