Lancashire 218 & 436 Kent 440 & 215-8: Kent hold nerve for victory

Maximum points and maximum tension marked Kent's fourth Championship victory of the season, a win which lifted them into third on the table and opened up the title race. Lancashire's gloom was deepened by the loss of Andrew Flintoff from their attack on the final day because of discomfort in his troublesome left ankle, and by the knowledge that Kent had closed the gap on the second-placed Red Rose county.

While the loss of Flintoff was significant, the foundation of the defeat lay in Lancashire's inadequate first-innings total and a clutch of dropped catches, two of them yesterday and one first time around when Matthew Walker was on one - the Kent man going on to make a very big hundred.

But the Lancashire bowlers stuck admirably to their task and in the sultry mid-afternoon heat had Kent supporters chewing their nails as they reduced them to 179 for 8, but Amjad Khan and Min Patel kept their heads and their wickets to steer Kent home with some 23 overs to spare.

The portents had not been that good at the start of the day when the Kent openers Robert Key and David Fulton resumed the chase for the 215 runs required. Key, the captain, was dismissed off the third ball of the morning, caught behind by Gareth Cross off a fiery Glen Chapple. Key's protracted departure from the crease suggested he felt he had not made contact.

The Lancashire bowlers really put their backs into the task, but Fulton and his new partner Martin van Jaarsveld rode their luck and displayed admirable patience as they chipped away at the target.

The rest of the morning session belonged to Kent, Van Jaarsveld passing 50 for the ninth time this summer and surviving a blow to the helmet by Dominic Cork, another Lancashire bowler who was fired up throughout the day and exchanged pleasantries with sections of the crowd.

Flintoff's enforced absence from the attack - his two overs yesterday were bowled well below full pace - fuelled the determination of the rest of the bowlers.

They all rose to the task after lunch when Kent's grip on proceedings was loosened. Having helped to put on 119 for the second wicket with Fulton, Van Jaarsveld attempted a half-hearted pull off Cork and the ball flew straight to the substitute fielder Tom Smith at deep backward square leg.

Walker came and went, falling to a tame bat-pad. Fulton was then dropped on 52 by Stuart Law at slip off Cork. He eventually stepped down the track to Gary Keedy and drove weakly to Cork at short extra. The fall of four more wickets raised Lancashire hopes, but it was not to be.

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