When David Fulton, the Kent captain, declared on Friday afternoon and contrived a target of 301 in 90 overs with his Surrey counterpart, Mark Butcher, it ensured a final day of positive cricket and the likelihood of a win for either side.
It was little surprise that Surrey, at the ground where they have lost only seven matches in the past eight seasons, emerged triumphant and in some style, bowling out Kent for 114 in the 50th over.
Fulton, while disappointed, was unbowed. "Yes it's a poor defeat but I felt that 300 in 90 was a winnable game," he explained afterwards. "We could have batted the game out as a draw on Friday but I want our team to try to win every match and in May we nearly chased 320 here in a National League game. I thought if we could get to 50 without loss then we would be favourites but Surrey bowled very well, put the ball in the business areas consistently and none of our top seven, all of whom are capable of scoring a hundred to win the game, got going."
So Surrey, gently chastised last week by Andy Strauss, the Middlesex captain, for a lack of adventure, aggressively reasserted their dominance of the Championship. Martin Bicknell and Jimmy Ormond bowled an exemplary line and length, testing Fulton and his opening partner, Michael Carberry, outside off stump. Saqlain Mushtaq teased and probed with four fielders hovering around the bat, Ian Salisbury cleaned up the tail.
Who would be a captain? Fulton will be criticised because of the size of the defeat but his logic is faultless. "I want and I've tried all season to get our players, especially the young ones, to play with no fear," he said. "If we come unstuck then so be it but we need to win games. We don't worry about relegation, safety first is pointless. The only way young players like Rob Ferley are going to learn is playing to win."
Such a positive attitude is refreshing because he is challenging his players to become match-winners rather than the typical deadwood cynics of the county game that use averages and decimal points to justify themselves.
And in keeping with those sentiments they have signed Muttiah Muralitharan to replace Andrew Symonds initially, then Mohammad Sami.
He is an undoubted match-winner, "the best in the world" according to Fulton, and has six matches to help Kent ascend the table. In six games for Lancashire in 1999 he took 66 wickets and few counties will relish facing the Sri Lankan in late July and August, especially if Kent post decent first-innings scores. "Our batting has been pretty good," said Fulton, "that's why I thought we could win this one. Despite this setback I back our players to win games and will continue to do so."Reuse content