Championship round-up: Kent's hopes crumble at Croft's hands


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The Independent Online

With two days left of the season, it seems increasingly likely that Yorkshire and Derbyshire will be playing in the First Division of the County Championship next summer.

Yorkshire capitalised on Derbyshire's rain-induced frustration to take an overnight lead in the Second Division table after dismissing Essex for 177 in Chelmsford.

But Kent, who began the final round of games just five points behind in third place, stumbled badly against Glamorgan in Cardiff, crashing to 170 all out to trail by 220 runs on first innings and then losing their first two wickets with only seven scored after they were asked to follow on. At the close they were 33 for 2, still 187 behind.

Robert Croft, the veteran former England spinner playing his final match before retiring, delivered a timely swansong – timely for Derbyshire and Yorkshire, that is – as Kent's first innings unravelled.

The 42-year-old off-spinner took 5 for 31 – the 51st five-wicket haul of his career – as Kent crashed from 96 for 1 in the 26th over of their first innings to be all out in the 54th, failing to claim a single batting point.

Croft's first strike was the most telling one for Kent as he trapped the in-form opener Sam Northeast leg before for 62 before dismissing Brendan Nash, Geraint Jones, and James Tredwell. His fifth wicket, ending tail-ender Charlie Shreck's late show of defiance, completed Kent's demise before Glamorgan's captain, Mark Wallace, enforced the follow-on.

By that time, Yorkshire's progress had already left Kent needing to win to deny Andrew Gale's team an instant return to the First Division. Yorkshire had added three bowling bonus points to the two they gained with the bat thanks largely to Moin Ashraf and Azeem Rafiq, two of the new generation on which Yorkshire will pin their hopes in the top tier next summer.

Ashraf's 4 for 36, his best figures of the season, included two wickets in two balls as Graham Napier and Reece Topley fell to the 20-year-old fast bowler, but it was Rafiq, the 21-year-old off-spinner, who seemed to have claimed the critical wicket when Ryan ten Doeschate (62) holed out to deep midwicket.

Yet Yorkshire's hopes of enforcing a follow-on were foiled when Tymal Mills cracked two sixes off Rafiq, and when the visitors then lost their first three second-innings wickets for 36 – with Napier increasing his match haul to eight wickets – the game was back in the balance with Yorkshire at that point only 171 ahead.

Kent's fate also eased the pressure on Derbyshire, who were unable to play after lunch at the County Ground because of persistent rain and face a tricky third morning, still 105 runs behind Hampshire and five wickets down.

Derbyshire were pleased with their progress yesterday nonetheless, adding 117 in the 30 overs possible for the loss of two wickets, one of whom was the nightwatchman, Tony Palladino, who made 58 before he chipped a ball from Sean Ervine directly to mid-on. Dan Redfern gave Ervine a second wicket when he edged one to second slip.

Derbyshire still have some work to do to achieve parity with Hampshire's 272 but Usman Khawaja played well to be 71 not out.

Somerset strengthened their attempt to claim the £235,000 runners-up prize in the First Division as centuries for Marcus Trescothick and Nick Compton put them in control against Worcestershire at Taunton.