Walker takes a giant stride

Warwickshire 311 and 124-2 Kent 376 Match drawn
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The Independent Online

Given that almost two of the opening three days were effectively lost to the weather, the chances of a positive result from this contest were always slim. It was no surprise, therefore, that both captains chose to chase the secondary prize of bonus points.

Despite the constant presence of threatening clouds, the coloured umbrellas protecting the few pockets of determined cricket watchers were largely superfluous. When they were needed, those beneath must have felt it somewhat ironic that the combatants did not immediately dash for shelter, quite in contrast to their willingness to retreat previously.

Perhaps they were in collective sympathy with Matthew Walker, the Kent batsman whose youthful talent once had him earmarked as a future Test player. His reputation these days is as an under-achiever, so one suspects that yesterday's opportunity was one he was eager not to pass up.

The former England Under-19 captain has never fulfilled his promise and at 29 he has been through barren times. Last year, he managed just 342 runs from 22 innings in the County Championship, with a top score of 46. Understandably, perhaps, after he had passed 50 for the first time since August 2001 with his ninth boundary yesterday, relief was mixed with apprehension as he sat down to lunch with the chance to turn it into a hundred.

His last century had come a month before that last 50, against Leicestershire at Grace Road. A year without one is long enough for any batsman's sense of self-esteem; two years, and his belief begins to suffer seriously.

He looked in assured form as he and Greg Blewett put on 144 for the fifth wicket before the Australian was pinned in the crease by a fine swinging ball from Dougie Brown. But it might have seemed there was a conspiracy to break his concentration as he moved warily into the high nineties. Pop music from a nearby open-air concert filled the air and the rain that had hitherto held off chose just the wrong moment to arrive. Umpires David Constant and Trevor Jesty exchanged glances but mercifully allowed Walker to complete his task.

After a 20-minute break, Walker watched contentedly as Martin Saggers dealt some lusty blows to a tiring Warwickshire attack and by the time Walker wearily chopped on against Alan Richardson, Kent had claimed their fourth batting point.

Brown then mopped up the tail to finish with 5 for 72 and make sure Warwickshire collected maximum bowling points. Everything that followed was marking time, but Mark Wagh seized the moment to compile an attractive half-century... in sunshine.