Hogg strikes to leave Kent title hopes in trouble

Warwickshire 502-6 dec Kent 150-6
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The Independent Online

Dougie Brown's decision to bat on after Warwickshire had amassed maximum batting points raised a few eyebrows around the ground, given the amount of time that had been lost to the weather and given that more rain is predicted for today.

Australia Day came early to South-east London yesterday with Warwickshire's Aussie Brad Hogg putting the skids under Kent with a Championship best return and his fellow countryman Andrew Symonds scoring a brutally brilliant century.

It was somewhat confusing for those watching, because they had watched Warwickshire piling up the runs and the bonus points for the first two and a half hours of the third day, only to witness most of the men of Kent struggling for the rest of the day to keep their Championship challenge alive.

While Warwickshire's Jonathan Trott, who duly completed his hundred, and his Warwickshire team-mates made run-scoring look routine, the Kent batsmen found Naqaash Tahir and Hogg especially tricky.

Had it not been for Symonds, their title hopes would have been hit far harder. True, he accorded Hogg a great deal of respect, although the second of his two sixes came off the Western Australian late in the day, but he still powered to three figures in effortless fashion.

By the close he was unbeaten on his third, and highest, hundred of the season but Kent were still a long 104 runs away from avoiding the follow-on, so unless the forecast bad weather arrives today, Kent's chances of saving this game appear remote.

With that in mind Dougie Brown's decision to bat on after gaining maximum batting points raised a few eyebrows, but the instincts of the acting captain proved to be right on the button.

It should also be remembered that Warwickshire were without their key strike bowlers Heath Streak (pulled stomach muscles) and Dewald Pretorius (thigh strain), but nervy Kent soon lost the opener Michael Carberry to Neil Carter.

Then Naqaash Tahir struck. His ability to swing the ball both ways accounted for Ed Smith in his first over from the North End. When the pacey 20-year-old switched ends he instantly had David Fulton taken at first slip.

When Tahir was given a breather, into the attack came Hogg. Coming into this match his left-arm spin had claimed just four Championship wickets at more than 119 runs apiece, while his overall first-class average hovers in the 40s.

But he has now doubled his Championship tally, starting with the left-hander Matthew Walker, followed by Alex Loudon, Niall O'Brien and Martin Saggers, and suddenly Warwickshire's closest rivals were struggling to stay in the match, let alone in the Championship title race.