Shaky Kent fail to return in triumph

Kent 222-8 Gloucestershire 223-4 Gloucs win by six wickets
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The Independent Online

It was not quite the triumphant return to south-east London that Kent had envisaged, but Gloucestershire proved far too strong all-round. And despite some sterling work with bat and ball by Kent's Andrew Symonds, Gloucestershire did not allow the hosts so much as a glimpse of a win as they eased to a victory that reinforced them in third place in the First Division of the National League.

The performance might not have been impressive, but Kent's development of the old Lloyds Bank Sports Club Ground in Beckenham most definitely is. Leander, the Bromley-based developers, have built luxury apartments on one edge of the 25-acre site, and a brand spanking new pavilion on the southern edge, and Kent have negotiated a favourable 10-year lease (with an option for a 10-year extension) on the ground.

The plan is to stage first class cricket at Beckenham from next season, with an overall sharing of fixtures among all four of their grounds. But sadly for Kent neither the new pavilion, nor the 4,000 people who flocked to south-east London could prevent Matt Windows and Alex Gidman from compiling a winning partnership of 95, in which Windows reached his half century while Gidman was stranded on 49.

The portents had not been that great for Kent. Barely three weeks ago they were on the end of a five-wicket defeat against the West Country side at Canterbury, and Gloucestershire turned up in Beckenham on the back of five straight wins in all limited overs matches. Thanks to Geraint Jones, top scorer in the game with 74 not out, and Symonds 50 and two wickets later on, it was not as bad as it might have been, especially given the way Kent set out, losing three wickets with just 10 runs on the board.

It was left to Symonds and Matthew Walker to stop the rot initially, which they did by smacking an entertaining 58 off 11 overs, at which point Walker did the unthinkable.

The left-hander hit the ball straight to Jonty Rhodes and called for a single. Rhodes picked up the ball effortlessly and in one fluid movement threw down the stumps at the bowler's end with Walker well out of his ground.

When Michael Carberry departed next over Kent suffered the shakes again. Symonds though had been joined by Jones and runs came more confidently. In the only previous match to have been staged on this ground, some 49 years ago - a three-day championship affair between these same two counties - rain forced a draw.

The best individual score in that match was 48, by Bob Wilson; who yesterday was given the honour of tossing up for Kent (and winning it), to see first Symonds, then Jones cruise past his old mark.

Unfortunately, not long after reaching his half century Symonds became Kent's second run-out victim and another wicket fell in the next over. Jones though was equal to the task and helped to provide a far more substantial total than might have been expected after that awful start.