Kent ill-equipped to stem the trickle

The Canterbury Festival officially gets under way next week when Kent's oldest living player, the 80-year-old Eddie Crush, will toss the coin for the Kent and Leicestershire captains.

The Canterbury Festival officially gets under way next week when Kent's oldest living player, the 80-year-old Eddie Crush, will toss the coin for the Kent and Leicestershire captains.

The marquees are already up, looking like so many tented pavilions, with pennons fluttering in the sharp breeze which brought three irritating interruptions for rain.

Yesterday though there was a less than festival atmosphere over the St Lawrence Ground, and amidst those pennons was glimpsed what appeared to be a white flag clutched by a handful of Kent batsmen, who failed to do what the Derbyshire lower order had managed - to stick around and score runs.

Admittedly the Kent attack did not possess an enthusiastic and competent swing bowler like Kevin Dean. The left-armer bounced in for 10 eager overs, producing a stunning spell which accounted for four Kent batsmen in the space of 26 balls. Only Robert Key showed any competence at the crease as he moved cautiously, but not uncomfortably, into the 20s.

As dour as it had been for much of the time, the Derbyshire batsmen certainly had it right, the last four wickets realising a hundredweight of runs, thanks chiefly to some serious entrenchment by Matthew Dowman and Simon Lacey. The pair dug in like a couple of Sappers and for 35 overs there was only the occasional sight of one or the other's head poking over the top of the trenches.

The runs came reluctantly, grittily, as the pair of them, seemingly using teaspoons to build the innings, inched Derbyshire towards first one batting point, then another.

Only briefly did Dowman resort to explosive techniques, in one Fleming over which had begun with him within sight of his fourth half-century of the season. He blasted the Kent captain for 10 runs, but then retired to a safe distance once more and the flood became a trickle of runs again.

Kent, hampered as they are by serious injuries to key bowlers - Dean Headley (stress fracture of back), Ben Phillips (ditto), James Golding (ditto), Julian Thompson (knee), James Hockley (hamstring), Martin McCague (returning to form after a couple of ankle operations) - stuck at their task well.

Fleming juggled around with what was left, even trying out the Indian Test batsman Rahul Dravid's beautifully flighted off-spin and Matthew Walker's medium pace. Fleming would probably have welcomed the octogenarian Mr Crush had he volunteered.

Mercifully Dowman's resistance was eventually ended by Min Patel shortly before lunch after an occupation lasting three-and-a-half hours, and the job was completed by Fleming, just as Lacey was probably contemplating where he would put the ball to bring up only the second fifty of his first-class career.

The stand-in new ball bowler Martin Saggers collected his second bag of four this season, but there was no real venom.

Hence the thoughts idly straying to the aforementioned Mr Crush, the former Kent pace bowler, who only played between 1946 and 1949 but numbered Don Bradman among his haul of 83 wickets.

Unfortunately the Kent batsmen ceded much of the advantage that had accrued to them. If someone does not do something today, then the word "crush" may well turn out to signify an end rather than a beginning.

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