Warne cunning gives value for money

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The Independent Online

As most first-class matches around the country lurched towards inevitable rain-affected draws, Shane Warne bucked this trend by turning a sure-fire stalemate into a thriller - one more akin to North by Northwest than The Da Vinci Code - and in the process proved again just what a special and truly entertaining cricketer he is.

The home captain started by finishing off Kent's first innings for 223, despite an unbeaten 61 from the South African Andrew Hall, ending up with bowling figures of 4for 38. He then declared when Hampshire reached 176 for 6, after John Crawley had scored an uncharacteristic, not to mention hectic, 83 not out off 80 balls. This left Kent needing 225 win from a minimum of 48 overs. Game on.

After 17 overs Kent were 55 for 3 with Robert Key bowled by a leg-spinner - Warne again. However, time and the weather, were not on Warne's side and the game ended in a draw.

Middlesex's First Division match against Warwickshire was abandoned after only 18 overs were bowled. The result meant that Middlesex remain bottom of the table and an embattled John Emburey, their director of cricket, fears the worst. "We have got to play more positive cricket - it is no good sitting back," he said.

At Old Trafford, Nottinghamshire saw off the challenge of Lancashire to register a draw despite conceding a first-innings deficit of 55 runs. However, the youthful bowling of Oliver Newby and Thomas Smith worked wonders, with the pair picking up two wickets each, to leave Nottinghamshire reeling on 72 for 4 from 28 overs. The promising Smith bats left-handed but bowls medium-pacers with his right hand and this is his first year as a professional.

The Second Division match at Taunton between Somerset and Leicester also ended in a draw. Paul Nixon ended on 71 not out and the former Test player Hylton Ackerman scored 64.

Somerset's England bowler Ian Blackwell has a shoulder injury needing surgery and is likely to miss the rest of the season.