Key's century sends message to the selectors

Kent 432-9 dec and 189-1 New Zealand 409 and 211 Kent win by nine wickets

Kent struck a psychological blow for England in the run-up to the first test at Lord's later this week with a comprehensive victory over the New Zealanders.

Of course the tourists played down the defeat. Coach John Bracewell did admit: "We are slightly disappointed,'' but added: "The time spent on our legs has given us a closer indication of what our Test side is going to be.'' That team will definitely be lead by Stephen Fleming, who has recovered from a hip muscle injury, but it almost certainly will not contain their fast bowler Shane Bond.

Bracewell admitted that Bond, who bowled 16 overs in the first innings but not a single ball in the second, needs to work on his fitness. "He's suffering from things like blisters and stiffness in the side,'' explained Bracewell. "We are on target to have him fit for the second Test at Headingley.'' But the tourists were well wide of their stated aim at the St Lawrence ground. "We did want to win this match," insisted Bracewell. But so did Kent, which drew admiration from the Kiwi coach. "I am happy with the fact that Kent played so professionally and gave us quite a good lesson.''

The tourists were given a batting master class by Robert Key. On the day that England announced their 13-man squad for Lord's, minus Key who won the last of his eight caps last summer, he scored his second hundred of the match.

Bracewell admired Key's attitude. "He has a toughness about him. He wasn't going to give his wicket away.'' Key seemed particularly partial to the left-arm spinner, Daniel Vettori, who appears to be struggling for form.

In the first innings Vettori was dispatched at more than six an over. Second time around the punishment had been reduced by one run an over, but he was still expensive.

Key explained: "It was a slow pitch but he didn't vary his pace a lot, so it made coming down the wicket to him a lot easier.'' One shot saw Key loft a delivery back over Vettori's head. The ball landed on the Kent players' balcony. In total, Key hit 18 boundaries in addition to that six, and his innings occupied 143 balls.

For much of that time the tourists appeared uninterested - their abysmal second innings with the bat on Saturday had dashed any hopes of victory and they were content to spend time in the field with the sun on their backs and Key in their faces. Key and the Kent captain, David Fulton, added a further 150 runs to their overnight 24 before the latter departed stumped, stepping down the track to the occasional slow left-armer, Mark Richardson. Key, though, went on to reach his third century in six first-class outings this season. Eye-catching form, provided the England selectors are watching.