Kent 214 Essex 218-5: Battle-hardened Foster nudges Essex to victory

Essex win by five wickets
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The Independent Online

It has been the worst of times for James Foster, shunted into the international wilderness for the last six years or so, then having to bear the loss of his mother Diana after a long illness last winter.

But the Essex wicketkeeper (below with the trophy), one of the best in the country, has demonstrated he can tough things out and come through for the best of times – in this case victory in a knock-out final at Lord's, Essex's first significant silverware for a decade.

Foster's fifth-wicket partnership of 68 off 69 balls with man of the match Grant Flower was crucial. The Kent captain, Rob Key, described his team's batting performance as "brainless" adding that turning up to play as they did was "a waste of time".

The "scratchy" Foster and in-form Flower applied themselves as their opponents had failed to. Foster's gritty 18-run share of that stand should have sent the right message to the England selectors.

"I felt pretty scratchy throughout," said Foster, 28, who won the last of his seven caps against Australia in Melbourne in 2002. "The bulk of our runs came from tip and run cricket because of Rob Key's effective field-placing. Like I say I wasn't feeling particularly flush so I just tried to hang in there."

He reckons his wicketkeeping has improved year on year, so much so that during the Twenty20 Finals day Foster felt confident enough to phone the national selector, Geoff Miller, to see whether the England door was still open to him. "We had a good conversation. He was reasonably encouraging, I guess. He didn't say I had no chance."

Foster's international career has been dogged by unlucky breaks, Alec Stewart, Chris Read as well as a clutch of rivals from the Southern Hemisphere – Geraint Jones, born Papua New Guinea; Matt Prior, Johannesburg; Tim Ambrose, Newcastle, New South Wales.

Foster made his England debut in India in 2001. He strung together half a dozen consecutive appearances which looked to have wrestled the wicketkeeping gloves from Stewart, 17 years his senior, only to suffer a fractured arm just before the start of the series against New Zealand in May 2002, which set his career back apart from that solitary Ashes appearance later in the same year.