Hooper energises Lancashire

Kent 602-6 dec Lancashire 365 and 244-6 Lancashire drew with Kent
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The Independent Online

Kent will always remember Carl Hooper, not least for his superb resistance in Lancashire's cause as they battled all day to avoid an innings defeat and succeeded in rescuing a draw. Hooper, originally an emergency signing to fill the gap left by Harbhajan Singh's non-arrival, is now looking as much at home here as that other well-known Mancunian Clive Lloyd.

A stiff breeze off a blue Irish Sea was the signal Kent needed of guaranteed fair weather for the last three sessions as Lancashire resumed 255 behind with seven wickets gone.

The pitch, having played cat and mouse for three days, came out overwhelmingly in favour of the quicker bowlers. Armed with a ball only eight overs old, Kent's quicks ripped through the tail, the last three wickets falling for 17 runs in four overs. Martin Saggers, from the North End, swung the ball across the right-handers, helped by seam and a crack in the pitch that meant the ball lifted at different heights and speeds.

Mark Chilton and Alex Swann were batting again before noon, still 237 behind, Saggers this time with a glossy new cherry. In between being asked his views on Twenty20 at long leg, he delivered a spell of 3-5-1-3, Chilton, Swann and Stuart Law back among team-mates very vocal in their criticism of two umpiring decisions.

From a nadir of 12 for 3, Lancashire gradually covered Hooper in patient, watchful mood. Some brisk shots from Mal Loye took them to 55 before he became another lbw victim. Chris Schofield ended Kent's hopes of a swift getaway with an unorthodox but entertaining innings before being eventually tempted into an over-ambitious hook.

That left Hooper and the late tail; he survived two half chances, mixed delicate cuts with cannon drives, lifted James Tredwell for two sixes and by the time he reached his first Red Rose century (249 minutes), Lancashire, with a minimum 17 overs remaining, were 23 from making Kent bat again.

"Oh Hoops, we do miss you,'' sighed a Kent man. In his five seasons there, he hit 22 hundreds and foiled Lancashire more than once (203 in 1998).

Yet for Lancashire, a draw represented a Dunkirk rather than a Waterloo. Their Championship ambitions now depend heavily on someone, somewhere, beating Surrey.