Cricket: Sussex seize initiative

Kent v Sussex
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The Independent Online
THE sun came out with conviction on the Tunbridge Wells Festival for the first time yesterday, and the tempo of the cricket moved up to greet it.

After three days of cautious play on a slow wicket, a declaration equation was agreed and acted upon. It involved Sussex, eventually thanks to some clumping enterprise by Keith Newell and James Kirtley, biffing their way beyond a lead of 280.

When they were called in 35 minutes into the day, Kent required 282 in a minimum of 84 overs. An asking rate of less than 3.5 an over would be foolhardy on most grounds, but this wicket and outfield have assisted the batsmen only grudgingly.

It seemed possible that the bowling of Michael Bevan or the batting of Carl Hooper might lie at the heart of the afternoon.

Bevan had served up a bizarre cocktail with his fast left-arm spin in the first innings - a beamer that almost beat the leaping wicket-keeper, a ration of long hops and some unplayable balls.

Hooper had failed to engage brain and bat on Thursday, departing after a couple of flashy big hits. He owed Kent applied assistance in the run chase. As it turned out, Bevan had to wait until almost tea for his first wicket, by which time Hooper had sketched out an entertaining cameo, but no more.

His 49 had come in 64 balls and included two effortless offside sixes struck from the bowling of his overseas counterpart. Too soon for Kent, however, he snicked seam bowler Alex Edwards to first slip where Bevan took the ball low to his left. Edwards had also persuaded an off-side snick from the Kent opener Robert Key while the comparative veteran, Mark Robinson, late of Northamptonshire and Yorkshire, hustled out David Fulton and Trevor Ward.

With Hooper and Alan Wells together, however, Kent looked to be taking command of a finely balanced game. Within a few balls Wells was run out by a direct hit from Toby Peirce - Wells has not enjoyed this game against his old county - and Hooper followed. Matthew Walker took on the chase but, given that the modest run rate was always under control, his high top-edge to backward square, where Newell gratefully accepted a tricky chance, seemed irresponsible.

With Sussex now chirping optimistically in the field and striving for the next breakthrough, Kent's hopes lay in the experienced hands of Matthew Fleming and skipper Steve Marsh.

With a growing sense of desperation apparently in the batting that may have been provoked by the noisy fielders but did not seem justified by mathematics, Fleming was lucky to survive when a full-blooded waft just eluded Jamie Carpenter before Marsh perished at gully. The visitors were now on top, straining to close out the match.

Three more wickets for the swift Kirtley, to follow Marsh's scalp, soon achieved this.