Blain puts struggling Kent on back foot

Kent 108 Northamptonshire 173 for 3
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The Independent Online

At the end of a good season Kent's batsmen should have been ashamed of themselves. After captain Matthew Fleming had decided to bat, on what admittedly looked like a bowlers' morning, they were all out before lunch and only just managed to reach a hundred thanks to a last-wicket stand of 35.

The pitches at the St Lawrence Ground this year have been excellent and although 13 wickets fell in the day, it is the batsmen rather than the groundsman who will have to answer the awkward questions. There was some early moisture but nothing worse than that as pitch inspector Raman Subba Row will have confirmed.

In the second over, David Fulton, so prolific earlier in the summer, survived a half-chance to second slip. Then, to the next ball he tried an extravagant forcing stroke off the back foot at John Blain and was caught behind. Four runs later Ed Smith played an absurdly airy cut, also off Blain, and was similarly caught by wicketkeeper David Ripley.

At the same score, Rob Key had his leg stump removed by Paul Taylor's in-swing. Paul Nixon helped take the Kent total to 34 when he was trapped by a ball from Blain which left him and was caught behind. Four runs later, Mark Ealham drove at Blain and was brilliantly caught low, left-handed by Russell Warren in the gully.

It seemed just the situation for Fleming. But soon he thrust forward with firm wrists and was snapped up at third slip. Andy Symonds played a couple of powerful strokes before skying a catch on the offside from the leading edge. Martin Saggers then played no stroke at an in-swinger from Taylor which hit his off-stump.

With nine Kent wickets down, Min Patel and Ben Trott finally showed that the pitch was more than manageable. Patel played two on-drives off Blain, while Trott produced the cover drive of his life before eventually edging Tony Penberthy into the slips. Blain finished with a career best 6 for 42.

There was time for Northamptonshire to negotiate two overs before lunch without any problem. They had reached 21 afterwards when Mike Hussey was lbw playing forward to Trott, but Jeff Cook and Alec Swan settled in comfortably enough although half an hour was lost to rain.

Both reached good fifties, Swan in 105 balls with 10 fours and Cook in 95 balls with nine fours, and they had put on 91 when Cook drove wildly at Saggers and was caught behind. The score was 141 when Swan was lbw on the front foot to Ealham by which time Warren was timing the ball well and had found a good partner in Penberthy. They had put on 32 when bad light intervened with 15 overs left.