Surrey suffer from Kent's Key man

<preform>Kent 262 &Amp; 467-4 Dec Surrey 324 & 11-0</preform>
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The Independent Online

Surrey found themselves being hit from all sides yesterday as they lost their grip on this match and were eventually confronted with an imposing victory target of 406 runs, reduced fractionally by the close.

Surrey found themselves being hit from all sides yesterday as they lost their grip on this match and were eventually confronted with an imposing victory target of 406 runs, reduced fractionally by the close.

The most serious blow came in the form of a 17-point deduction by the England and Wales Cricket Board for their ball-tampering earlier this month. To that humiliation was added a couple of massive hundreds from Kent's Robert Key and Martin van Jaarsveld, who ripped the initiative out of the visitors' hands with a record third-wicket stand; all that was compounded by the loss of the strike bowler Martin Bicknell and the support bowler Rikki Clarke.

The docked points were not quite as bad as might first appear, since nine of them have been suspended until 31 May 2006, and will only come into effect if Surrey are found guilty of ball-tampering between now and then. Bad pitches command a penalty of either 8 or 22 Championship points, but this was a deliberate act, and there are those who think the punishment was not harsh enough.

Surrey's chief executive, Paul Sheldon, denied that the county had got off lightly. While refusing to reveal what punitive steps the club had taken, he insisted that, although an internal investigation had failed to uncover the culprit or culprits, an unspecified number of players had been punished.

"No one has been suspended," said Sheldon, "although all the options were considered." That suggested the 11 players involved against Nottinghamshire earlier this month had been punished.

The punishment meted out by the Kent batsmen was far heavier. Surrey, shorn of Bicknell (cut foot) and Clarke (hamstring strain) from the attack, found themselves being flogged mercilessly by Van Jaarsveld and Key.

The pair smashed 323 runs in just 252 minutes in building the highest third-wicket partnership for the county, surpassing the record of 321 that had stood since 1899.

It is the second time Key, overlooked by England for the Bangladesh series, has scored a hundred in each innings, and was the 27th century of his first-class career. Once again he was a model of moderation and worthy of higher honours.

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