Cricket: Ward's reward

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Kent 408 and 330

Glamorgan 266 and 57-1

THERE can be few prettier places in which to watch cricket than here, nor many grounds more sympathetic to a batsman in search of runs. The pitches are invariably placid, the boundaries so close that, with an outfield as parched as the hot spell has left this one, a firm push can be enough for a four.

Trevor Ward is the latest appreciative visitor. On Thursday, the Kent opener ended a period of toil and frustration by reaching his first Championship century this summer. Yesterday he completed his second, leading his side towards a position from which they ought not to let victory slip.

Ward's career suggests a liking for Glamorgan bowlers, who provided the ammunition when he made two centuries in a match at Maidstone in 1991. Six of his 17 first-class hundreds have come against the Welsh county. A bright start to this season augured well for Ward but Kent, like Glamorgan, have fallen into collective disrepair, a tendency to underachieve compounded by a long list of injured bowlers. Martin McCague is back for his first Championship match since May but Alan Igglesden, Dean Headley, Duncan Spencer and Chris Penn are all missing. So Kent may find themselves relying on Min Patel to spin out the opposition, as they have all season.

Yesterday, they lost Neil Taylor early and Carl Hooper prematurely but gained ample compensation from Ward's handsome strokeplay, advancing from 60 for one overnight to 181 for three at lunch. Steve Barwick and Robert Croft worked hard for Glamorgan in the unrelenting heat of the afternoon and Barwick, who deserved a reward for the restrictive accuracy of his off- cutters, at last dismissed Ward on a score of 125, which included 21 fours. After Graham Cowdrey fell to the same bowler Kent slipped from 239 for four to 249 for eight but Mark Ealham, with 43, and McCague, with a career-best 36, added 69 for the ninth wicket, which probably put Glamorgan out of the game.

Welsh optimists might point out that their target of 473 to win is 20 fewer than Glamorgan scored batting last against Worcester here in 1990, when they failed by only two runs to pull off an extraordinary victory. But after Patel made the first breakthrough in the penultimate over, the notion that they might succeed this time was looking far-fetched.