Sidebottom given a sting in tail by defiant Kent duo

The heroes were in the tail, and they are named Ryan McLaren, Yasir Arafat and Christopher Wright. They do not trip lightly off the tongue but Nottinghamshire and Middlesex players won't soon forget them.

Two County Championship victories yesterday happened because they were involved in unlikely stands of 71 for the seventh wicket to give Kent a three-wicket win against Nottinghamshire, and 99 for the eighth wicket at Chelmsford that was enough to let Essex snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Middlesex.

Kent's three-wicket win was accomplished despite Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad, who will hope that New Zealand's lower order batsmen prove less obdurate in this week's First Test. After losing three wickets early on, 71 runs were needed when McLaren, a Kolpak player from Kimberley in South Africa, was joined by another all-rounder in Arafat, Kent's overseas player from Rawalpindi.

McLaren had already distinguished himself, taking 6 for 75 in Nottinghamshire's second innings. He and Arafat are both expected to score some runs, but not necessarily against half of England's bowling attack scenting victory. They got the 71 required in 70 minutes, although their victory did not stop Nottinghamshire topping Division One, seven points clear of Lancashire.

Somerset scrambled out of bottom place by carefully manufacturing a draw against Hampshire on a batsman's pitch at Taunton. Justin Langer, who had already scored 188, chose to bat on and did not declare until midday when Somerset had 654 for 6 and the lead of 422. Profoundly uninterested in a run-chase, Hampshire made clear their intention to play for four draw points by scoring at little more than two an over.

Essex's defeat of Middlesex in Division Two goes down as a credit to a 22-year-old fast-medium bowler batting at No 10 named Wright, who took Middlesex's vulnerable bowling attack by the scruff of the neck and scored 71 in 105 balls (with 12 fours and one six) in a stand of 99 with James Middlebrook. Victory was particularly sweet for Wright after he failed to make the grade at Lord's.

Warwickshire remain top of Division Two. They were set 378 to win by Derbyshire, who batted on long enough yesterday morning to give a 25-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman from Denmark called Frederik Klokker time to score his first Championship hundred.

Klokker, who was apprenticed to MCC Young Cricketers for four years, was determined to play first-class cricket and clung on to the possibility even when it appeared improbable. He took his time: his 103 not out took two minutes short of six hours.

An English all-comers record of an unusual kind may have been set in a Friends Provident Trophy match at Northampton yesterday where 11 of the 22 players have been imported from South Africa. Since two other players came from Dublin and Perth (the Western Australian one), there were only nine Englishmen on the scorecard. Leicestershire played six South Africans and Northants five.

Leicestershire's chief executive, David Smith, says the advantage of the South African contingent is that they leave the coach free to pick promising English under-25s. This may be admirable in theory; in practice, however, yesterday's count came to a mere two English under-25s.

Leicestershire's South Africans scored 268 for 6 off their 50 overs, Hylton Ackerman making 139. But it was an Irishman, the wicketkeeper-opener Niall O'Brien, who brought the hosts within range with 95. Unlikely batting heroics from Monty Panesar took Northants within eight runs of victory in a ninth-wicket stand of 49 with Johann Louw before the overs ran out.

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