Cricket: Strang proves Kent's saviour

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The Independent Online
Kent 306 v Northamptonshire

He may have been signed for his leg-spin bowling, but Paul Strang's batting was just what Kent needed to stiffen a flabby innings at The Mote. There was a languorous air to this picturesque ground and the lethargy it generated seemed to pervade everyone and everything, batsmen and bowlers alike.

Northamptonshire's attack got caught up in the deceptively easy-paced atmosphere, which was reflected in their agonisingly slow over-rate. Tea was 40 minutes late and there was overtime for all before the close.

The mood permeated the Kent innings with the bulk of their batsmen appearing to get themselves out. It was only thanks to Strang, Nigel Llong earlier on and Ben Phillips later on that they achieved the minor miracle of picking up three batting bonus points, something which looked remote by the 10th over of the day, at which point they were flopping around like fish out of water at 31 for 3. Llong and Alan Wells stuck around for more than two hours, but stuck was the operative word.

Wells was eventually undone by a full-length delivery from Mohammad Akram, which ripped his leg and middle stumps out of the ground. Llong had reached his first championship half-century of the season when he decided to chase a wideish ball from Paul Taylor and was snapped up by Rob Bailey at second slip. Matthew Fleming fell attempting a fourth scoring stroke which would have taken him to 16, instead the ball carried as far as mid-wicket.

Enter Strang, the saviour from Zimbabwe. He put on 66 with the Kent captain Steve Marsh, taking them past 200. After an incredulous Marsh fell to a fine catch by Jeremy Snape in the deep, Strang went on to reach his third championship fifty of the season.

Phillips then took up the cudgels. He had hit his maiden first-class hundred last month, yesterday's cultured effort belied his relative inexperience at this level and underlined his potential. The 22-year-old flayed the Northamptonshire bowling in late evening sun to present a perfect lesson in batsmanship to take Kent to relative respectability.