Kent are crushed by Kirby

Kent 212 and 250 Yorkshire 413 and 53-1 Yorkshire won by nine wickets
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The Independent Online

Given that even an uneventful debut etches itself with permanency on a cricketer's memory, Steve Kirby is unlikely to have any difficulty recalling his. Yorkshire's fourth Championship victory ­ their third in a row ­ took longer than expected, but they were propelled to it spectacularly in the end by a quick bowler with the potential to become a regular headline-maker.

Kirby's introduction to first-class cricket ­ extraordinary already for his selection as a mid-match replacement for England-bound Matthew Hoggard ­ ended with figures of 7 for 50 as Kent were dismissed for 250 in their second innings mid-afternoon, paving the way for Yorkshire to win by nine wickets and reinforce their position as First Division leaders.

The emergence of a talent of Kirby's variety is becoming almost commonplace in these parts, but on this occasion the Yorkshire academy can take no credit, Kirby having arrived by an altogether more circuitous route. His career having been threatened by a back injury, he was released by Leicestershire after five seasons and, resigned to seeing his dream of a cricket career dashed, he asked Yorkshire for a trial almost out of desperation.

But it took only one viewing in the winter nets for Steve Oldham, the county's cricket development manager, to recognise the potential first displayed for Bury Town, where England footballer Phil Neville was a team-mate. Now, after proving Oldham's judgement so impressively correct by taking the five Kent wickets still intact overnight, the 23-year-old is on the verge of signing a contract.

"It is hard to believe what has happened and I just want to enjoy the moment," Kirby said. "I was shattered when Leicestershire released me because I was already on a rehabilitation programme for my back, and I'm determined to prove them wrong."

Oldham commented: "It was obvious why he was having problems with his back. He was too side-on, his front foot was in the wrong place and he was placing dangerous stress on his spine.

"But there are not many bowlers with his kind of pace so it was worth putting in some effort. We tinkered with his action to open him up a bit and now the stress is not there. And he still swings the ball away as well as getting the odd one to come back."

His five victims yesterday can testify to that range of abilities as well as his startling pace after Kent's overnight pair of Paul Nixon and Martin Saggers had painstakingly carried their side from 27 behind overnight to 36 in front, with Yorkshire handicapped further by the groin injury that prevented Chris Silverwood from bowling.

But once handed the new ball, the red-haired Kirby rapidly ended any notion of the visitors, 201 behind on first innings, holding out for a draw. Having removed Saggers with his third delivery, a ball that kept a shade low, he then trapped Nixon with an inswinger, and saw James Golding edge the outswinger that came next to the wicketkeeper, Richard Blakey, putting Kirby on a hat-trick for the second time in the innings.

Min Patel survived the hat-trick ball, fortunate to miss a searing lifter that had Blakey at full stretch to save four byes, but soon saw his middle and off stumps disappear in opposite directions before Ben Trott became victim number seven for Kirby, his fifth for nine runs in the space of 29 balls. It then took Yorkshire less than 12 overs to score the 50 they required for victory for the loss of only Matthew Wood.

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