Symonds supreme as Kent win again

Kent 615 and 91-3, Lancashire 307 and 395 <i>(Kent win by 7 wickets)</i>
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The Independent Online

If winning is a habit, then Kent are hooked. This was their 10th victory in their last 14 matches, a run stretching back to last July.

If winning is a habit, then Kent are hooked. This was their 10th victory in their last 14 matches, a run stretching back to last July.

But according to the Kent captain, David Fulton, it gets harder, not easier. And that was borne out, to a certain extent, by the way they were made to dig in for victory even though a mere 88 runs were all that was required, and lost three wickets on the way.

They did manage to wrap it all up some 50 minutes after lunch; just reward for three-and-a-half days of almost complete domination of Lancashire, the pre-season favourites in most eyes to win the Championship.

Throughout the match, Kent displayed a collective will and a hard enough edge to suggest that they are perfectly capable of making a serious challenge for the title themselves. Fulton disagrees. After Ed Smith had hit the winning boundary to inflict the first defeat in any competition this season on Lancashire, he said: "I don't think we will win the Championship this season, but in three or four years' time we could be the best in the country." Maybe he does not want to tempt providence, or sound boastful, but this win was achieved without their premier strike bowler, Martin Saggers. They were also hampered by a troublesome knee injury to their other strike bowler, Mohammed Sami.

He was unable to take the field yesterday and tomorrow will undergo a scan to see if the problem with his left knee is simply wear and tear or something more serious. Should he be sidelined for any length of time there is every likelihood that Kent will call up New Zealand's Ian Butler, who is due to stand in for Sami in July anyway.

What with Min Patel struggling with hamstring and groin niggles, although he was able to send down 32 economical and effective overs of left-arm spin, and likely to miss their next Championship match, Kent were not exactly bristling with weaponry.

How fortunate therefore that Kent had Andrew Symonds to call upon. Not content with the important role of swing bowler in this game, the Australian all-rounder also wheeled away with more-than-useful off-spin, which earned him four of his eight wickets in the match.

It was he who wrapped up the Lancashire second innings in his 53rd over, when he had Kyle Hogg caught at short third man, a wicket that presented him with his first five-wicket haul of the summer.

Given that Symonds had also taken two catches, as well as a stunning run-out with a direct hit, it is little wonder that Fulton sang the Queenslander's praises. "I cannot speak highly enough of the bloke," the captain said. "I wouldn't swap him for anyone." Lancashire had their own big-hearted player in Glen Chapple, who resisted almost until the last to finish with a fine century, which, coupled with the five wickets he took in the first innings, underlined his claims as one of the leading English all-rounders in the country.

Sadly, Chapple's contribution was just not enough to make a game of it. Although Fulton, Robert Key - who smacked a comfortable 44 to take his average to 102.73 before shouldering arms to Hogg - and Symonds all perished, Smith and Walker wasted no time in knocking off the winning runs and lifting Kent into second place in the Championship.