Kent v Lancashire: Walker's century halts Lancashire onslaught

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The Independent Online

These have been lean times for Kent and for Matthew Walker. Promising beginnings this summer for the County and its popular left-handed batsman have just not been fulfilled.

The result is that Kent find themselves hovering just above Surrey, Worcester and relegation from the top flight of the LV County Championship.

Kent suffered particularly from the bad weather and by the time the skies had cleared, black clouds began to gather over them in the form of a crushing defeat against Surrey.

A wobbly start here yesterday had supporters wondering when their luck was going to turn. After being put into bat by title-chasing Lancashire, Kent had lost three of their top batsmen with barely an hour's play gone.

Joe Denly and Rob Key made a cautious start, the former in particular looking a trifle shaky against the probings of Glen Chapple, who was getting the ball to swing both ways.

In the 11th over Denly edged an outswinger from Chapple low to VVS Laxman at first slip. Chapple struck again, a crucial blow, with his very next ball to new man Martin van Jaarsveld, this time it was an inswinger and Van Jaarsveld departed lbw.

Eight overs later there was further cause for alarm. Oliver Newby found the outside edge to have Key caught, again by Laxman.

With a bare fifty on the board Kent looked to be up against it, but as things turned out, Lancashire found that they had run up against a brick wall in the shape of Walker and Neil Dexter, his fourth-wicket partner.

The partnership calmly and gradually worked the initiative out of Lancashire's grasp with a patient century stand either side of lunch.

Dexter was nowhere near as confident or as fluent as the 33-year-old Walker, but he had enough nous to let the senior man do the bulk of the work.

The pair had been together for 41 overs before Dominic Cork, generating reverse swing, knocked back Dexter's leg stump.

Walker, though, looked ominously settled, from a Lancashire perspective. Only last season on this same ground Walker had got to within a whisker of a double hundred, and this time around, after reaching the 24th hundred of his First Class career, he appeared perfectly capable of improving on that performance.

He arrived at the mark with a straight-driven four off Newby after more than four hours of dedication and 193 balls. It was only his second hundred of the season, ending a run of nine innings without a significant score.

He had coped particularly well with the Sri Lanka Test off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who is playing his last match for the Red Rose County before leaving at the end of this week to travel to the World Twenty20 Championships.

Of course Murali did not go wicketless. He trapped Geraint Jones, the erstwhile England wicketkeeper lbw soon after Dexter's departure and followed that a little later with James Tredwell, again lbw.

Shortly before the close the Sri Lanka off-spinner left the field temporarily because of an apparent problem with his right upper arm. And his reappearance on the field coincided with Kent picking up their third batting bonus point.