Northamptonshire move closer to survival

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The Independent Online

Kent have done nothing to raise the spirits of the faithful few who have so far come to watch them end the season at the St Lawrence ground. For most of the first two days they have been outplayed by Northamptonshire.

A fourth wicket partnership of 167 in just over three hours between Russell Warren and Tony Penberthy assured Northamptonshire of a lead of more than 200, even before the lower middle order easily succumbed to Ben Trott and Martin Saggers.

Trott, who is tall and lively, took his fourth haul of five wickets or more in an innings this season. If Kent had managed to hold on to their catches Northamptonshire's lead would have been considerably reduced.

In the first over of the second day, which began 40 minutes late because of rain, Warren when 31 drove at Trott and was dropped by Min Patel to his right at third slip.

After that, it took both Trott and Saggers time to find their rhythm and they were repeatedly driven, forced off the back foot or cut through the offside. Warren was at his best off the back foot, while Penberthy several times produced a lovely flowing left-hander's off-drive.

They had taken the score to 308 for 3 and the lead to 200 when Penberthy hoiked Matthew Walker round the corner to Patel at fine leg. The new ball was taken nine runs later and at 318 Warren flashed at Trott outside the off stump and was caught by Andrew Symonds diving to his right at second slip. Warren had faced 213 balls for his 104 and hit 16 fours.

The new ball did the trick for Kent and the next five wickets fell for the addition of only 39 runs, three to Trott and two to Saggers. Northamptonshire, who are doing their best to jump past Surrey or Lancashire and avoid relegation, still had a good enough lead.

This was underlined when Rob Key amazingly played no stroke at a ball from John Blain which removed his middle stump. David Fulton and Ed Smith then went for their strokes and batted most attractively. The 50 came up in the 11th over, bowled by Paul Taylor, which produced 20 runs. These two had put on 86 when Smith pulled at Blain and was caught behind just after Fulton had been badly dropped behind off Blain with his score on 37. Five runs later Symonds checked a drive and was brilliantly caught and bowled by Penberthy. Fulton then went to his 50 and soon afterwards Walker, who was on five, was dropped at first slip off Blain and so it should have been even worse for Kent.