Fulton following in legend's footsteps

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The Independent Online

A monumental innings of 196 by Freddy Fulton ably supported by Mark Ealham checked Northamptonshire's progress at the St Lawrence Ground.

Their sixth-wicket stand of 219 in 74 overs, a record for Kent against Northamptonshire, has given the home side a chance of victory, which, if taken and followed-up with success against Lancashire at Old Trafford next week, could leave them as runners-up to Yorkshire.

Fulton, who at 29, is no longer in the first flush of youth, became the first Kent batsman to score nine first-class hundreds since Arthur Fagg in 1938. The legendary left-hander, Frank Woolley, made 10 in 1928 and again in 1934.

Fulton is a tall, upright right-hander who loves the front foot drive and times the ball nicely off his legs. The Northamptonshire bowling was not as tight as it had been in the first innings and there was less moisture in the pitch to assist them in their struggle to avoid relegation to the Second Division.

Fulton has now scored 1,892 first-class runs this season, more than anyone else in the country, and perhaps he deserved a chance against the Australians. A place in the winter touring party may have given him a fairer chance, but when it came to it, his age would have counted against him, and Michael Vaughan seems to have been written in as Mike Atherton's successor as an opener.

In all honesty, Fulton does not look a Test cricketer, but it is never possible to be certain about this until he has had the chance. At the time, not many people would have backed Northamptonshire's David Steele or Middlesex's Clive Radley to score hundreds for England. But they were given the opportunity and took it with both hands.

Ealham's form and confidence has deteriorated since his moderate showing in the one-day internationals earlier this summer. Until now, his best score of the season has been 44, but yesterday he showed that common sense that has served him so well over the years. There was something splendidly stalwart and determined about this innings and it will have come as an important boost to his morale, as he approaches a winter's hibernation.

The day began with a couple of spanking strokes through the covers by Matthew Walker, but, at 176, he played forward to John Blain and the ball flicked the inside edge before knocking out his leg stump. Paul Nixon should then have been caught at first slip nibbling at Michael Strong when 13, although four runs later, he was lbw to Strong.

Fulton slashed Strong low to cover having faced 370 balls leaving Ealham and Matthew Fleming to put on 42 for the seventh wicket by the close.