Loudon the stonewaller keep his old county out

<preform>Kent 347 and 308-6 dec<br>Warwickshire 309 and 233-9<br>Match drawn</preform>
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The Independent Online

The wonder of cricket is that two teams can slug it out, session after session, each wicket or partnership a mini-victory, keep the crowd on tenterhooks until the very final delivery has been bowled and still neither side be declared the winner.

The wonder of cricket is that two teams can slug it out, session after session, each wicket or partnership a mini-victory, keep the crowd on tenterhooks until the very final delivery has been bowled and still neither side be declared the winner.

It is a beauty of the game that non-aficionados do not understand, but when Nick Warren, aptly named because he is a "rabbit" with the bat, and Tony Frost, a resolute, unfussy and often underrated cricketer, safely negotiated the last 33 balls, the tension for both sides was fantastic.

Kent, last year's runners-up, desperately wanted a victory from their first game, especially as they had dominated the crucial final day by reducing Warwickshire to 73 for 5 at lunch. The Champions, however, had the proud record of being undefeated in the competition since the end of 2003 to protect.

The greatest disappointment will surely be Kent's, as their workmanlike bowling attack ultimately failed to complete the job. Min Patel, the left-arm spinner, toiled, teased and probed, and the seamers Simon Cook and Amjad Khan bustled aggressively, but what was glaring in its omission was a "gun" bowler. Sometimes a team just needs an out-and-out speedster or a flamboyant, maverick twirly man. Admittedly these are rare commodities, but while persistence and patience are admirable qualities, they do not tend to win enough matches. They certainly did not win this one, and come September that could prove crucial.

Even more galling for Kent is the fact that the first defiance they encountered came from a young player they had nurtured and developed, only for him to chose to leave in the winter.

Alex Loudon, enticed by the promise of more responsibility with his off-spin, moved to Warwickshire, and in a poignant innings he demonstrated tough resilience, concentration and no little talent. A couple of cover drives and one sumptuous punch through midwicket were shots of real quality, but with runs irrelevant it was the 171 balls he stonewalled and 210 minutes he survived that helped his team most. The expected banter in the middle by his former team-mates did not unnerve him, nor did the occasional cry of "turncoat" from the stands, and with Frost he calmly set about repairing the innings.

It was his dismissal, though, a popped catch to Rob Key at short leg, that was the catalyst for the exciting end, as he was soon followed by Ashley Giles and Heath Streak. Patel deserved all three, and when the new ball was taken Kent had 10 overs to take the last two wickets.

Khan was brisk but wayward, although when he went round the wicket to the left-handed Neil Carter he found the edge. It changed the equation to those last 33 balls, five-and-a-half overs of thrilling cricket where nothing much happened.

The closest Kent got was a bouncer in the penultimate over that the diving Key failed to reach from short leg, although it may have come off the arm guard rather than the glove. A tantalisingly close miss, a bit like the game overall.

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