Lathwell leads fightback as Kent falter

Kent 451-7 dec Somerset 300-9
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The Independent Online

This was not so much a chapter of missed chances and lost opportunities as a 24-volume set. This fielding performance will not sit proudly on Kent's bookshelves in the future. And the pity of all this accident and incident is that Kent's hopes of pulling off a victory are heading for the occident.

That Somerset trailed into the pavilion needing just two more runs to avoid the follow-on and with a precious third batting bonus point under their collective belt owed as much to their own tail-end heroics as it did to Kent's litany of dropped catches and missed stumpings.

Keith Dutch, Mark Lathwell and Richard Johnson together with their captain Jamie Cox and the wicketkeeper Robbie Turner rode their luck and gutsed it out when the going got tough ­ which it did frequently thanks to some sterling work by the Kent bowlers, most notably Min Patel and the ever-improving Martin Saggers. But with six clear-cut chances going begging Kent have only themselves to blame if their own title hopes go west.

Too many of the seeds of destruction sown by the Kent attack fell on stony ground, or at least on the bone dry square. At one point Somerset were flopping around at 85 for 6 but, having watched the chances go begging, they managed to wriggle off the hook and swim clear. That was thanks in no small way to a welcome knock by Lathwell, who passed fifty for the seventh time in the Championship this season, and latterly a breezy eighth-wicket stand between Johnson and Dutch.

Somerset had arrived here in second place in the First Division, 11 points clear of third-placed Kent, but were definitely coming off second best in this match until the aforementioned players mastered the bowling on a pitch that was beginning to show signs of variable bounce.

Despite that though, the 47 minutes immediately after lunch, when they lost their first five wickets, could yet have a significant bearing on Somerset's title aspirations. Up to lunch Cox and Piran Holloway had weathered a fair old storm. Holloway was dropped in Saggers' first over before he had scored, then survived a stumping attempt by Paul Nixon on seven.

At least David Fulton got his hands on the ball at first slip when Holloway edged the first ball from Saggers after lunch. The same bowler struck again in his next over when Mike Burns shouldered arms and lost his off-stump.

Then it was Patel's turn with three wickets in 23 balls to account for Peter Bowler, Cox and the dangerous Ian Blackwell, only for Lathwell and Robbie Turner to dig in. Then, with little left but the match to lose, Johnson and Dutch opted for some swashbuckling heroics.

Johnson hit two sixes in his blistering 34-ball knock, sharing in a stand of 86 and earning Somerset a second batting point, while Dutch passed fifty for the fourth time in his last six innings and eased Somerset to within sight of safety.

Earlier the Kent innings had ended rather abruptly after Fulton hit the second six of his innings which took him to his career best 208.

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