Hooper strikes it rich

Kent 363 & 244 Durham 269 & 11-0
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The Independent Online
Last season Durham won their final match to avoid the wooden spoon and ensure that unwanted title went to Kent instead. They have not succeeded in the Championship since, but stayed gamely in contention here despite running into Carl Hooper at his awesome best.

Kent, requiring a victory to top the table, lost their last eight wickets for 74, setting a target of 339 - formidable for a side of Durham's modest batting strength, but not impossible.

So an intriguing game continued to oscillate. At lunch, the home team had been 16 for two with David Fulton unable to open because of tonsilitis. The most valuable player to have had at the Mote would have been Dr Julian Thompson - in his professional capacity. Fulton had arrived at the ground looking a whiter shade of pale and then Melvyn Betts suffered a suspected broken foot after being struck by Martin McCague. The umpire, Nigel Plews, then raised his finger to add the insult of dismissal to his injury.

Betts stayed in the pavilion when Kent batted and was missed more than Fulton, even though Brown sent back both openers in successive overs. Nigel Llong was leg-before and Matthew Fleming swished to the wicket-keeper after a brief blast.

As Brown tired and the supporting acts floundered, Trevor Ward and Hooper took control with a century stand in 21 overs, both reaching their second 50 of the match. Hooper was murderous, whether driving or pulling. At least the patrons of the marquees at the picturesque Town End were safe as his fiercest blows, off David Cox and Phil Bainbridge, flew high above the tents. Five sixes and nine fours meant that there was little running to do - for batsmen or fielders - in his 78-ball hundred.

The manner of the pair's demise was therefore all the more unexpected, Hooper being bowled round his legs by Cox and Ward running himself out after playing straight to mid-off.

A cluster of wickets after tea gave the England contender Brown 50 for the season and the Australian wicket-keeper David Ligertwood five successive victims, including Fulton, who staggered out to bat at No 9. With Mark Ealham and Min Patel at the Test, Kent's bowlers still have some work to do if they are to depose Yorkshire from the top.

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