Headley's high five slaps Alleyne in face

Kent 305 & 432-4; Gloucestershire 256 & 209 Kent win by 272 runs
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The Independent Online
The trick has to be to keep your best until late. Dean Headley, having returned to full fitness after early season niggles, chose to peak at a most convenient time for Kent. His first five-wicket haul of the summer saw the England fast bowler helping his side to obliterate one set of Championship rivals yesterday.

Headley's 5 for 92 was testimony to a superb, sustained spell of hostile fast bowling, to which Gloucestershire's batsmen had no answer. The West Country side's hopes of lifting the Championship have effectively been wiped out.

If any one delivery exemplified the menace posed by Headley, it was the brute that shot up between the visor and guard of Martyn Ball's helmet and caught the off-spinner a nasty blow under his left eye.

Although Ball carried on, and even drove Headley through the covers for four later in the same over, he was clearly shaken. The inevitable happened a couple of overs later when the batsman failed to get out of the way of another wicked lifter: the ball looped off the splice and wicket-keeper Steve Marsh took a simple catch. Three balls later it was all over. Mark Alleyne was rapped on the pads going half-forward to a fuller length delivery from Headley and the umpire, Vandurn Holder, upheld the appeal for lbw.

Much of the groundwork for victory had been achieved the day before, when Kent left their opponents an impossible 482 for victory and then removed four Gloucestershire batsmen. Even so, nightwatchman Syd Lawrence proved awkward to budge, defying the pace of Headley and the wiles of leg-spinner Paul Strang for 21 minutes before becoming one of Headley's victims.

Strang did his bit as well wheeling away for an admirable 28 overs (25 of them unchanged) and picking up 3 for 40. His economy and ability to take vital wickets will be sorely missed for the last, critical, match of the season. Almost certainly when Surrey arrive at the St Lawrence ground in a fortnight it will be the Championship decider. Sadly Strang has to join Zimbabwe for their Test series against New Zealand.

But in the midst of the celebrations yesterday Marsh, the Kent captain, hinted that Min Patel, the slow left-arm bowler who has been battling all season to recover from an operation on his left knee, could well make a surprise comeback. Kent could certainly do with a twirler as Strang proved yesterday. His removal of the obdurate Jack Russell came at a telling moment in the match.

By then Shaun Young had come and gone and Gloucestershire hopes rested with Matt Windows and their captain, Alleyne. Windows, a resolute character, compact and in possession of an array of strokes, helped himself to 16 boundaries during his near four- hour stay, but Kent's promising young pace bowler, Ben Phillips, shattered his contribution just after lunch, Windows stepping back and across to fall lbw when he was within sight of a century.

At that point, Strang bowled Russell with a leg-break to expose the Gloucestershire tail and the clinical Headley ran in and docked it.

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