Fleming blows away Hampshire

Kent 183-8 Hampshire 115 Kent win by 68 runs
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The Independent Online

Last season the Rose Bowl was a place where spectators collapsed from sunstroke, this year it is fast becoming the scene of dramatic batting collapses. On Saturday it was a Championship rollover in which Hampshire lost eight wickets for 63 runs. Yesterday they lost all 10 batsmen for 66 runs in this Benson & Hedges match.

That was after the alarm bells had sounded in the morning as Kent lost four wickets inside the first eight overs with just 25 runs on the board.

It was bordering on the miraculous that Hampshire were even given the opportunity to surrender so easily, since proceedings were delayed by a quarter of an hour to allow time for the tempestuous weather to settle a little. The wind created havoc and made life very difficult for the groundstaff. At one point, while trying to hold down one large section of the covers, the sheet billowed out like a spinnaker, dragging one poor unfortunate groundsman several yards before four of his colleagues managed to drop anchor on the other end of the sheet.

That was more than any batsman other than Kent's Gold Award winner Paul Nixon managed to do on a day the ball swung and seamed and was buffeted this way and that by the vicious and tricky gusts.

Alan Mullally, Hampshire's left-arm swing bowler, later said: "Those were the most difficult conditions I have ever played in. It was gusting and it made control very difficult." It also made batting awkward, although clearly more so later in the day for Hampshire.

Yet, unlike Kent, Hampshire got off to a stunning start. Their first eight overs yielded 49 runs without loss as young James Hamblin got on top of the bowling from the outset and gave a perfect cameo of pinch-hitting, and even after he fell, hitting across the line, the runs still came steadily as Neil Johnson and Derek Kenway pushed and prodded the score along.

Then it all went wrong. Johnson contrived to scoop a ball to mid-on. John Crawley was squared up and presented the wicketkeeper Nixon with the first of his three victims. The captain, Robin Smith, chopped on – all three batsmen falling to the bowling of Matthew Fleming – and it was as good as over.

Kenway battled on grimly, but the arrival into the attack of Andrew Symonds sparked a mini-collapse of three wickets in 14 balls and thereafter it became a matter of time.

Hampshire will rue the fact that they rather let Kent off the hook after winning the toss and opting to let their opponents run the gauntlet of the blustery conditions. But a sixth-wicket stand of 54 between Matthew Walker and Nixon, which was not simple bluster, took the wind out of their sails and ultimately left their hopes of victory in tatters.

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