Middlesex 333 &amp; 327 Kent 308 &amp; 356-3 <i>(Kent win by 7 wickets)</i>: Middlesex exposed as Walker leads ambush

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The Independent Online

This was a humiliation for Middlesex in their first county game of the season. They were ambushed by Kent and even when they had seen it coming they were utterly incapable of responding.

These are early days, but the Middlesex dressing-room cannot be a cheerful place. Perhaps they should take courage from Kent's experience, because they lost to Durham a week ago by an innings and 56 runs. On the other hand, that could make them feel twice as bad.

The sun was shining, but it was nippy when play began at 11am. Kent, with all their wickets intact needed 311 to win. Although the pitch had been well-behaved for three days, there was still bounce for the seamers, and some deliveries had spun the evening before.

Bookmakers do not bother to turn up for County Championship matches at Lord's. Had they done so, they would have been daft not to make Middlesex favourites.

At 11.25am, Kent's new captain, Robert Key, was given out lbw to Chris Silverwood, the import from Yorkshire, having added only four to his overnight score. But David Fulton was taking advantage of some carelessly short-pitched bowling, and the score was moving along nicely. Fulton celebrated his fifty by square cutting and hard edging Silverwood for three fours in one over. That was him out of the attack for the time being.

Fulton's new partner, Martin van Jaarsveld, was not pretty but he did look perfectly comfortable. Shortly after midday Fulton survived a straightforward chance to Ben Hutton at slip when he was 70, and Kent were 129 for 1. At that stage the bookies would have begun to hedge their bets. This game could still have gone any of three ways; but at lunch Kent were 158 for 1. If Middlesex were to win, quick wickets were essential.

Fulton finally went in the fourth over after lunch, well caught by Ben Scott behind the wicket off Johann Louw, who had arrived at Middlesex from South Africa via Northamptonshire.

This might have been Middlesex's breakthrough, except that now it was Louw's turn to be hit out of the attack, conceding 14 in an over to Van Jaarsveld and Matthew Walker.

At 3pm, Kent were 230 for 2. Van Jaarsveld's inelegant square prods were shooting to the boundary, as were his waves down to fine leg and his edges over slips.

Hutton brought himself on and for six balls he staunched the flow. In his next over, Van Jaarsveld sped from 86 to 100 with three fours and then a two off his legs. Hutton came on as an experiment, but made it look like a concession.

Van Jaarsveld was eventually surprised by a slower, straight ball from Louw, but Walker, who had scored 123 to rescue Kent's first innings, and Darren Stevens made the progress toward victory look embarrassingly easy. Kent had needed only 92.4 overs and there were still 20.2 overs to bowl at 4.35pm when Walker hit the winning runs.

And the reason for this slaughter? You could not fault the Middlesex bowlers for not trying. Only for their competence. They were simply not capable of taking 10 wickets on the fourth day of a county game. If they do not learn the trick very soon, Middlesex could already be doomed.

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