County Championship round-up: Joseph inspires shock Kent win

The only ground at which a dedicated cricket watcher's pulse would have quickened yesterday was Chelmsford. Otherwise, to read about match-winning bowlers and adventurous captaincy, the best advice was to consult the history books. Of eight Championship matches begun last week, six were drawn. In two of them, Somerset and Leicestershire, following on, scored more than 400 runs to avoid defeat. The start of the season awaits the wow-factor.

Kent, playing Essex, also followed on, and scored more than 500 runs in their second innings, leaving Essex 348 to win. The difference was they had match-winning bowlers, two of them. Robbie Joseph took 6 for 55 and Wayne Parnell, a 19-year-old left-armer from Port Elizabeth who bowled fast and venomously, took the first two wickets, including Alastair Cook, and finished with 3 for 56.

Kent won by 192 runs despite their slip fielders dropping two catches during a frustrating stand of 72 between Ryan ten Doeschate and David Masters. Once that was broken Essex's last three wickets fell for four runs. They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Other more reputable bowlers were left blushing. The new England man, Graham Onions, who took six wickets in Somerset's first innings for Durham, had figures of 1 for 110 in the second innings on Friday, the promising Steve Finn had figures of 0 for 107 for Middlesex against Leicestershire, while Essex's Danish Kaneria took four wickets at Chelmsford but at a cost of 172 runs.

These have been halcyon days for batsmen. The latest to join a distinguished list of century-makers yesterday was South Africa's Ashwell Prince, who denied Nottinghamshire a sniff of victory at Old Trafford. At Chelmsford, Darren Stevens scored 136 not out, pushing Kent's score to 512 but Kent's captain, Martin van Jaarsveld, batted on for a couple of overs after lunch before declaring, as insurance against Essex starting a run-chase. An adventurous captain would have declared earlier to give his bowlers more time on a wearing wicket, but they still managed an unlikely win.

Hampshire lead Division One by three points from Nottinghamshire, but they have played one more game. Derbyshire are on top of Division Two. Sussex and Surrey occupy bottom spot in each Division. Sussex took four points from a drawn game against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl that was sabotaged by rain.

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