Smith and Walker take Kent to brink but Surrey hang on

Surrey 322-7 Kent 316-7 Surrey win by six runs
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The Independent Online

A scintillating 162-run partnership between Ed Smith and Matthew Walker took Kent to the brink of victory in a sensational National League match yesterday.

Having been asked to score the highest total by a side batting second in the competition to win the match, Kent got desperately close, but still contributed to one record: the combined total of 648 runs is the highest match aggregate in this competition.

There were echoes in this defeat of Kent's performance chasing a big total in the C&G Trophy semi-final against Somerset at Taunton last year, on that occasion they were well placed needing nine to win off 15 balls, but lost by five runs.

They were similarly placed yesterday, needing 31 off the remaining four overs, but Smith was cruelly bowled one short of what would have been his maiden one-day hundred by a full-length ball from Azhar Mahmood, one of Surrey's batting heroes, and that effectively was that. Walker contributed a pugnacious 80 but he only faced six balls in the last 21 which was a significant factor in the Kent defeat.

Smith and Walker had crashed the ball to all parts in 17 thrilling overs for the fifth wicket, shredding the Surrey attack in the process, to the extent that bowlers started sending down volleys of wides – one Adam Hollioake over saw two balls go for four wides – catches were dropped and the home side just unravelled.

It needed some canny bowling at the death by Azhar, Hollioake and Rikki Clarke, who managed to regain enough control to leave Kent tantalisingly short of their target.

Smith is not renowned for his explosive batting, but yesterday he brought up his half-century with a six and thumped one more and nine fours in his 86-ball stay.

Defeat would have added insult to injury for Mark Ramprakash, who had earlier hit an unbeaten hundred to help set up the Surrey total. He then split the webbing on his left hand when attempting to catch Robert Key at the start of the Kent reply.

It was entertaining stuff for a sparse crowd and brightened the overcast conditions. The Surrey innings resembled a tennis tournament at times with regular calls for new balls as the big-hitting home side cleared the short gas-holder boundary four times. In all they amassed 10 sixes and 33 fours in their imposing total.

There had been an explosive start as Alistair Brown and Ian Ward launched themselves at the Kent attack helping themselves to 78 runs in a fraction under eight overs.

The impetus went out of the Surrey innings in the middle as Graham Thorpe and Ramprakash dropped the revs, just keeping the scoreboard on tickover. It was not until he had reached his half century and had been joined by Azhar that Ramprakash floored the accelerator. He flicked the first of his two sixes and injected Azhar with similar enthusiasm, to the extent that the pair of them put on 115 in 77 balls.

Ramprakash reached his tenth limited overs hundred at better than a run a ball, while Azhar blasted 70 off 41 balls with the help of four sixes.