Lancashire 218 & 56-2 Kent 440: Walker turns up the heat on lacklustre Lancashire

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The Independent Online

It was difficult to know which was the more relentless yesterday, the sun or Kent batsman Matthew Walker. But there was no doubt which of the two made life a lot hotter for Lancashire.

Thanks to Walker's superb innings and some rotten luck for Lancashire - they lost opener Iain Sutcliffe to a freak dismissal, the ball trickling back on to his stumps from a defensive shot - they were not in the greatest of shape at the close having lost another wicket as they tackled the imposing 222-run deficit.

This was the first time in 19 Championship matches, stretching back to last season that Lancashire have conceded a first innings lead and it was comfortably the highest score made against them this summer.

It is the second time that Lancashire have been badly burned by the chunky 32-year-old Walker. In 2003 he scored 150, this time Walker, who had been dropped in the slips on one the day before, was on the brink of a double century when he slipped just short of a second and was run out.

He was exhausted by then and dehydrated, but at the fall of his wicket the Lancashire players, in a touching series of gestures, came up to him, commiserating and congratulating him at the same time. It was a magnificent demonstration of sporting spirit.

He had been at the crease for seven and a half hours, hitting 25 fours and a six, and in his last four innings he has totalled 24 hours at the crease, passing fifty every time and twice going on to three figures.

He found crucial support from his overnight partner Dwayne Bravo, the West Indies Test all-rounder, who helped put on 137 for the fifth wicket, but it was a gritty partnership with Amjad Khan, which had Lancashire heads dropping in the searing afternoon heat.

Amjad, singled out by Robert Key as the pick of the Kent bowlers first time around, got further into his captain's good books yesterday by contributing 38 gutsy runs of the 121 for the ninth wicket - a record by Kent against Lancashire.

Miraculously Walker's heroics managed to deflect a great deal of attention from Andrew Flintoff and his battle to be fit for England's second Test against Pakistan at Old Trafford next week.

The England captain and all-rounder appeared to come through a further nine overs without any obvious problems, but late yesterday an ECB spokesman described Flintoff as being "out on his feet" which suggested that he is still some way off full fitness. But at least his left ankle is standing up well to the rigours of bowling in a match. Whether Lancashire can stand the heat in the Kent kitchen remains to be seen.