Ealham strikes back for Kent

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The Independent Online
reports from Edgbaston

Kent 258; Warwickshire 42-4

Until the last session, Warwickshire might have felt they had enjoyed the better of the opening day against Kent, who often found progress difficult after deciding to bat first on a pitch that rewarded Shaun Pollock with his best figures since joining the champions this year, and Dougie Brown with the best of his career.

However, as Warwickshire, who began 14 points behind second-placed Kent in the table, slumped to 38 for 4 in reply - with Mark Ealham taking three wickets in the space of 12 balls without conceding a run - their 258 was beginning to look a useful total.

The Edgbaston square was the subject of unfavourable comment - not well received - during the abbreviated first Test. This contest may not go the distance, either, not that this is a rare occurrence in four-day games. However, the strip prepared for this one was certainly not of the straw colour recommended for Championship cricket. While some balls took off from it, others kept low and these inconsistencies, combined with movement off the seam, made batting an uncomfortable business.

It was especially so for Carl Hooper, who received a blow on the left arm facing Pollock before he had scored a run and had to leave the field, resuming in some pain only after a trip to hospital had ensured there was no break.

Not that Pollock had many grumbles, finishing a busy day with 4 for 60 from 23 overs, his best return so far for Warwickshire, who are making him work hard for his wages. No one, not even among the spinners, has bowled more than his 251 Championship overs.

This has been forced to a significant extent by the injury to Tim Munton, who returned to captain the side yesterday, in place of an injured Dermot Reeve, six weeks after suffering a broken wrist. Munton bowled with customary heart, but without the luck of Brown, who claimed five wickets in an innings for the first time as well as holding a good catch at third slip to remove Nigel Llong, dropped by Dominic Ostler in the previous over.

Ostler also put down Matthew Fleming, whose 96-ball 61 was immensely valuable to Kent. Fleming, who batted sensibly but still managed a couple of sixes, had another escape on 39, courtesy of Andy Moles, and was caught off a no-ball.

Some of Kent's shot selection could be queried, but the success of their bowlers in an overrunning last session will have made them feel much better.

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