Cricket: Somerset benefit from Harden graft

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The Independent Online
Kent 144 and 201

Somerset 211 and 55-1

THERE was something for everyone to appreciate here: graft, craft, and sheer belligerance, all of which leaves Kent looking down the barrel this morning. A sporting wicket having dispensed with such niceties as the sporting declaration, it has become a question of when rather than by how much Somerset would sweep to their fourth victory.

Kent have been well and truly caught on a track that has nothing to do with four-day cricket, a dodgy enough situation even without losing the toss and having to bat first. Yesterday, they watched in frustration as Richard Harden completed his first century of the summer. That was the grafting part out of the way.

We then had a real smash and grab of an innings of 95 from Trevor Ward, 74 of whose runs came in boundaries as Kent fought their way back from a deficit of 67. It was suicidal stuff, of course, and when his team-mates took up the theme, the main beneficiary was Mushtaq Ahmed.

The Pakistani leg spinner took 6 for 40 to go with his 4 for 55 in the first innings, the third time this summer that he has taken 10 wickets in a match. With Neil Mallender taking 4 for 34, his best of the season, Kent's second innings came to an end soon after 5.30, and Somerset were setting out on a winning trail that amounted to no more than 135.

Harden resumed in the morning on 72 and had been at the crease four hours and accumulated 121 before Dean Headley picked up his fifth wicket. Harden, who opened, was the last out. He had just reached his half century by the time Graham Rose was sixth out on Thursday, with Somerset shaking on 112.

When Mallender departed in yesterday's fourth over, the lead amounted to three runs, but this had been stretched considerably thanks to a last-wicket partnership of 64 between Harden and Andre Van Troost, whose nervous disposition at the crease belied a good eye and a strong arm.

It was Ward who soon cut into the deficit, once Mark Benson had become Mallender's initial victim. Ward has been happiest on Sundays and here he played just that sort of innings. Rose, for example, was despatched for four fours and a six in one over and was removed from the attack for good after three overs had gone for 42.

Ward had hammered another 13 boundaries and was within a stroke or two of reaching three figures when Mushtaq, who had already removed Neil Taylor, Carl Hooper and Nigel Llong, got him to sky one to mid-on. Mushtaq and Mallender then continued to clean up and by the time rain arrived to curtail play Somerset were 80 short of the mark with nine wickets in hand.

Mike Watkinson, Lancashire's stand-in captain, followed up his century in his side's first innings by taking three of the four Nottinghamshire wickets to fall as the visitors laboured to 244 for four at a blustery Old Trafford. Watkinson made 102 out of Lancashire's 295.