Masters is master of Zimbabwe

The rollover was as close to abject as it gets. For a touring side to lose a match to a county can be regarded as careless; to lose one by an innings borders on the inexcusable. Indeed, had it not been for Neil Johnson's determination to bat his way back into some kind of form, Zimbabwe's second innings performance would have been even sadder.

Injuries and the troubles back home, as well as the appalling weather that has dogged the tourists, go some way to explaining this brittle performance, and there were some great deeds by Kent, but the sum of these factors does not add up to the whole. No amount of excuses can satisfactorily explain what boiled down to surrender, with a day to spare, in a manner that wavered between the apathetic and the pathetic.

True, their resolve - or, more correctly, Johnson's - hardened once the sun appeared in the early afternoon, but the shadows of failure were never far away.

There is little for the tourists to take away from this game. Kent outbowled and outbatted them as they recorded their third victory over a touring side in eight seasons - the others being Zimbabwe in 1993 and South Africa in 1994.

Kent, in contrast, have a myriad of pluses, not least their unrelenting and hard-edged attitude throughout this game. Captain Matthew Fleming has turned this into a serious fighting unit. Aggressive and competitive, they showed no mercy. Even though they lost Rahul Dravid without him adding to his score in the morning their other incomer, wicketkeeper Paul Nixon, was on hand with a steely half century to help establish a hefty 328-run first innings lead.

Add to that the continuing saga of David Masters' dream first-class debut - he followed up his first-innings four for 44 with a convincing five-wicket display and match figures of nine for 81, and the uphill struggle became a futile flog. Masters' emergence is a big bonus to Kent given that they, too, have their injury problems in the seam department: there are no fewer than five experienced members of the attack who are out of action with various injuries. It forced Kent's hand and saw them field three bowlers - Masters, James Golding and Darren Scott - who came into this match with four first-class appearances between them.

And the county's batting gave cause for cheer as well. In addition to the brilliance of Dravid's magnificent innings there was the mature display from another youngster, James Hockley, as well as proof that the old master, Alan Wells, has not lost his appetite for runs.

Zimbabwe can only look on such riches with a touch of envy. In this match they added to their casualty list: the fast bowler Heath Streak aggravated a knee injury and Mpumelelo Mbangwa suffered an ankle injury.

In the face of such misfortune they must be hoping for a glint of silver behind the bank of cumulonimbus that is stacking up overhead with the first test against England a mere 13 days away.

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