Cricket: Ward goes on the offensive

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Kent 487 for 3

v Warwickshire

WHAT A WAY to see the season out: an opening partnership of 290 between Mark Benson and Trevor Ward - a record for any Kent wicket against Warwickshire - a felicitous 95 not out from Carl Hooper, and sunshine for those hardy souls braving a blustery wind under a washed blue sky.

Ward's 153 was the kind of innings scarcely told by the bare statistics: 184 balls, a six and 27 fours.

From the start he took the attack to the bowlers, carving, cutting and driving, and he was outscoring Benson by two to one, give or take a run, when he reached his century. The power of his strokeplay resounded around the ground.

An angled defensive bat may expose Ward against better bowling than Warwickshire afforded yesterday. However, he played Allan Donald well, and more than once he picked up the lesser lights from just short of a length to swing them through midwicket. Warwickshire had every reason to rue dropping him when he was 41 - and just as many for dropping Benson on 65.

With the ball darting this way and that on an autumnal pitch, the left-handed Benson was passed by Donald so many times, he must have wondered if he was a ship in the night. But with his 50 came strokes to rival his partner's, and there was a six as well as 15 fours in his 122. When Ward drove a catch back to Neil Smith in the 60th over, Kent were just 10 runs adrift off a full hand of batting points. With their strike bowler, Martin McCague, resting a groin-strain, Kent's batsmen have laid the groundwork to force the victory that will keep them second in the championship.

Warwickshire's out-cricket was such that they deserved a century stand from Hooper and Neil Taylor as their reward for removing the openers. Andy Lloyd, in his last match as captain, could only ring his bowling changes with a muffled peal. And once, when it was a contest whether Smith or the ball would be slower to the boundary, it was axiomatic that the ball would get there first.