County Championship: Patel turns tables on the champions

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Consider this for improbability. On 2 June Kent forfeited eight Championship points because of a poor pitch at Maidstone. At the time they lay in fourth place in the division one table. They thought the judgement was unfair and appealed. On Thursday, the second day of this game against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, they learned that their appeal had been turned down.

Consider this for improbability. On 2 June Kent forfeited eight Championship points because of a poor pitch at Maidstone. At the time they lay in fourth place in the division one table. They thought the judgement was unfair and appealed. On Thursday, the second day of this game against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, they learned that their appeal had been turned down.

Do they mope? Not at all. Two days later, they earn 22 Championship points in an easy win by an innings and 164 runs, and they leap to the top of the table. Only a fantasist could have made this story up.

The Championship pennant flapped gently in the light breeze yesterday morning, but Warwickshire have not kept pace with their performances of last season when they scored freely and were extraordinarily lucky with the toss. The luck has faded and the runs have come less freely, but they still led the division one table at the start of this game. Now they are second, but if this performance was an augury, they won't stay there.

Warwickshire imploded yesterday. On a wicket that was taking spin and on which the odd ball kept low, they lost eight wickets in 36 overs, principally to Kent's left-arm spin bowler Min Patel, who spooked Warwickshire's batsmen and took 6 for 53 in 25 overs.

Patel, who was born in Mumbai almost 35 years ago, is small, slim, hides behind wrap-around sunspecs, and has been injury prone. Kent's captain, David Fulton, says: "We call him nuts and bolts because that's how he is held together." (He is also called Ho Chi - work it out.) Speaking more frankly than Patel might appreciate, Fulton explains Patel is not particularly convincing on good wickets. "He's a gambler," he says, and what he means is that he is not the sort of spinner on whom his captain can rely to bowl a nagging line that makes scoring difficult.

"He can spend two weeks doing absolutely nothing, but he gets excited on spinning wickets," Fulton adds.

Kent had batted on Friday for 80 overs in accruing their total of 569, thus reducing the overs left to bowl Warwickshire out a second time following their first-innings effort of 252.

But this was a strategic decision. "I knew the longer the pitch had sun on it, the more it would spin," Fulton said. Considering that Warwickshire's last pair had held out long enough to get a draw at Canterbury at the end of April, it was the action of a man who had faith in his spinner.

Warwickshire's batsmen must have noted that the odd ball stayed low, and from the start yesterday they appeared to be mesmerised into playing back to guard against the unexpected.

Nick Knight was the first to fall - left-arm bowler to left-hander, and Knight was startled by the extent of the spin that curled the ball round his bat and took his off stump. With Ian Bell gone the day before for a duck and now Knight, perhaps Fulton's day was not going to be as hard and as long as he feared.

The night watchman was Patel's next victim, caught behind the wicket. Then Jonathan Trott played back to Patel and was given out lbw. Jim Troughton, having struggled to get back into the team, played forward and was caught at silly point off bat and pad for 11, which was 10 more than in the first knock.

Warwickshire were 87 for 6 before the hour was up and Patel had taken 4 for 23 in his morning's work so far.

Alex Loudon put up some resistance and looked more capable of dealing with Patel than any of his colleagues. He and Dougie Brown lasted to lunch but seven balls after it Loudon had gone to a ball from Patel that really did keep low. Amjad Khan dealt with Brown and Neil Carter, Patel bowled the injured Heath Streak, and Warwickshire were all out for 153.

Fulton had a cliché for the promising position in which Kent now find themselves: they will take the rest of the season one game at a time. The sunbathers in front of the press box had another form of expression to describe their team's effort. "This is a crap performance," said one, and so it was.

Comments