Cook masterstroke turns tide for Kent

Kent 420 & 135 Essex 279 & 177 (Kent win by 99 runs)
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The Independent Online

The outcome of this engaging four-day tussle between the South-east's First Division strugglers swung inextricably Kent's way just before lunch, yet the defining moment happened within the blink of an eye.

Despite losing two early wickets Essex had reached 120 for three in pursuit of their 277-run last day victory target and, with Matthew Walker and Ravi Bopara seemingly well ensconced, appeared slight favourites to succeed in this game of fluctuating fortunes.

Walker, hugely determined against his old club, combined well with Bopara who looked at his imperious best having just crunched a cover drive to the ropes off a Simon Cook half-volley. In this form, Bopara looked eminently capable of batting his side to a third success of the summer.

It was then that Cook invited his wicketkeeper Geraint Jones to stand up to the stumps in order to keep Bopara in his crease and create a modicum of pressure. It proved a master-stroke.

In his next over Cook fashioned a leg-cutter that lifted and left up the Nackington Road slope leaving Bopara groping and momentarily off balance. The right-hander quickly switched feet in the crease, but Jones accepted his stumping opportunity with alacrity, leaving umpire Barry Dudleston to raise the finger at square leg.

Soon after lunch Walker fell to Azhar Mahmood's three-card trick; two out-swingers followed by an in-ducker that thudded into the pads to snare the left-hander leg before.

James Foster then set off for a risky single only to be scuppered by Rob Key's direct hit to the non-striker's end. Any lingering hopes of an Essex victory went with him as Mahmood and James Tredwell wrapped up Kent's first home win of the season with a session-and-a-half to spare. Mahmood was the pick of their attack with 5 for 62, but the credit went to Jones for his moment of brilliance.

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