Loudon rescues Kent

Warwickshire 457 and 123-2
Kent 420
Match drawn

The only way Warwickshire were to win was to take early wickets and force Kent to follow on. It was possible, despite the loss of a hefty chunk of the contest to bad weather. And there had been encouraging signs on Friday evening as the visitors slipped from 229-1 to 255-5, still 202 behind.

The only way Warwickshire were to win was to take early wickets and force Kent to follow on. It was possible, despite the loss of a hefty chunk of the contest to bad weather. And there had been encouraging signs on Friday evening as the visitors slipped from 229-1 to 255-5, still 202 behind.

It did not happen, alas. Kent passed the follow-on point without losing another wicket, at which point the match became an exercise in gathering bonus points. This suited Warwickshire, in any event, the draw enabling them to stretch their lead from 35 points over Gloucestershire before this round to 36 over Kent, who move ahead of Surrey into second place.

Kent, having suffered an unhealthy dose of internal strife this season, culminating in Mike Denness resigning as chairman of cricket, were content not to lose, which was more or less guaranteed once two of the younger members of a makeshift side had guided them to safety.

Alex Loudon, 23, and the reserve wicketkeeper, 22-year-old Niall O'Brien, shared a partnership of 127 for the sixth wicket, batting with visibly growing confidence. Although there was some uneven bounce in the pitch it generally played well at an easy pace and with a short boundary on the Rea Bank side required an accuracy of bowling that Warwickshire's attack was unable to sustain.

O'Brien, a compact left-hander from Dublin, whose father, Brendan, is a former captain of Ireland, enjoyed himself hugely, hitting four sixes, a couple lofted straight off Mark Wagh's off-spin, another on the hook against the left-arm seam of Neil Carter and another carved over point of Dougie Brown's right-arm medium. His dismissal came in an attempt to hook Heath Streak, which had him caught behind, but his 69 was his highest first-class score by two runs.

Curiously, Loudon was out in much the same way against Carter, although he had greater cause for regret, falling eight runs short when his first century for Kent was there for the taking. Perhaps he was distracted by thoughts of what might happen if he did reach 100, his 50 having been greeted, somewhat surreally in a near-empty ground, by an explosion of fireworks, apparently ignited at a wedding nearby.

In between, Min Patel and Ian Butler had also gone to Streak, who finished with 4 for 85 from his first bowl after a stomach injury, but Loudon, who hit 10 fours, stayed long enough to clinch a fifth batting point.

Warwickshire's first-innings lead of 37 was purely academic and the remainder of the day pointless in almost every sense of the word, although Nick Knight, the captain, passed 1,000 first-class runs for the season on the way to his ninth score over 50.

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