Headley picks off his victims

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The Independent Online
Kent 445 and 245

Derbyshire 292 and 121-5

A Derby wicket with pace and the occasional variable bounce produced a scintillating day of attritional Championship cricket, although the majority of batsmen may argue that they were simply sitting ducks for the marksmanship of the likes of Dean Headley.

A lithe and fluent fast bowler, Headley, whose three wickets in the second innings took his match total to 11, and his opening partner Martin McCague revelled in the hostilities and provided Kent with the necessary firepower to maintain their title challenge. Headley was also one of the few batsmen to demonstrate that the wicket could indeed be mastered.

Kim Barnett temporarily provided the Kent attack with food for thought in a 65-ball half-century bristling with counter-attacking aggression. One pull shot too many - which bottom-edged off Headley and on to the stumps - proved his downfall and provided a tonic for fluttering Kent nerves. A late flurry of wickets, though, left the visitors firmly in command.

Devon Malcolm had also clearly relished the chance to see batsmen ducking for cover. All too often, however, his bouncers lacked direction and, therefore, menace. Carl Hooper readily accepted the first invitation to hook but was deceived by the pace, the ball striking high on the bat to loop a catch to square-leg. Ed Smith was also a victim of Malcolm's speed.

When McCague was the sixth man out at 100, Kent's lead was at its most vulnerable. Nigel Llong, however, one of the three centurions on Thursday, accepted the responsibility of anchor man and played the short ball with studious application.

Llong also cleverly carried the attack to Derbyshire when spin made an initial and brief one-over appearance after lunch. Hitting two fours from Matthew Vandrau's first two deliveries, he further stretched the bowling resources available to Dean Jones.

Headley provided invaluable support, contributing a measured 38 of their 77 stand. His departure, again hurried into top-edging a Malcolm delivery, was quickly followed by Llong's downfall. He became Malcolm's 10th victim of the match when he prodded at a wide delivery to offer another fine low catch to Adams at slip.

The Kent tail then frustrated Derbyshire's attack - further depleted when Phillip DeFreitas suffered a knee injury - until the skipper, Steve Marsh, batting at No 11 because of a broken index finger, completed Malcolm's six-wicket haul.