McCague returns in nick of time

As improbable as this Kent victory was, the match-winning hero was equally unlikely. When Martin McCague was thrown the old ball yesterday morning Hampshire needed a further 63 runs to beat Kent, with four wickets and all day to do it.

As improbable as this Kent victory was, the match-winning hero was equally unlikely. When Martin McCague was thrown the old ball yesterday morning Hampshire needed a further 63 runs to beat Kent, with four wickets and all day to do it.

McCague's first over was runless, neither Adrian Aymes nor Dimitri Mascarenhas were prepared to take any risks. But in his second over the former England fast bowler, playing only his fourth match of the season following two ankle operations, tempted Mascarenhas into a tentative prod and wicketkeeper Paul Nixon snapped up the resulting edge.

In McCague's next over Shane Warne drove and presented David Fulton with his sixth catch of the match. But the moment the new ball became available, the acting Kent captain, Alan Wells, took it. It had been in his thoughts since the evening before when he had opted to carry on for the extra half hour, arguing, quite sensibly, that the nine overs bowled then brought his fast bowlers that much nearer the new ball.

When they got their hands on it, though, with McCague making way for the less experienced Martin Saggers and David Masters, neither youngster was able to worry Aymes or his new partner, Shaun Udal.

For close on an hour Wells persisted with his new-ball attack before finally relenting when the batsmen had taken Hampshire to within 23 of their target of 314. Back came McCague, initially without success as the batsmen picked off a precious handful of runs.

Then at 12.27pm, when the trickle of pessimism out of the St Lawrence Ground was threatening to become a tearful flood, McCague pitched one up to Udal, who failed to get out of the way and was on his way back to the pavilion, adjudged leg before.

Two minutes later it was all over. The last man, Alan Mullally, is no rock with the bat and the second ball he faced was yorker length, uprooting his leg stump. It completed a spell of 4 for 12 in 34 balls and gave McCague his first five-wicket haul in the Championship for more than three years, at the same time lifting Kent into the top five of the First Division, while leaving Hampshire teetering on the rim of relegation.

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