Hooper's art bewitches Middlesex

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The Independent Online
Middlesex 219-6 Kent 220-4 (Kent win by six wickets)

There are few better sights than watching Carl Hooper score runs. He is the most felicitous of strokemakers and his 62, which helped take Kent to a convincing victory over Middlesex, provided a lovely warm glow towards the end of a distinctly chilling day.

So far this year, Middlesex have been out of sorts and having lost all three of their qualifying matches they are also already out of the last eight in the Benson and Hedges Cup.

In the field, they seem strangely naked without the distinguished presence of John Emburey and the increasingly avuncular looking Mike Gatting is at the moment a general of an army which lacks cohesion.

Kent, on the other hand, have now won all three of their group matches and even without captain, Mark Benson, and seam bowlers, Alan Igglesden and Dean Headley, who have an assortment of injuries, are in good working order and no one more so than Hooper and opening bowler Julian Thompson, who won the gold award.

Rather surprisingly, on a greenish pitch, Gatting chose to bat and at once Middlesex had problems against Thompson as he moved the ball away from the right-hander off the seam and bowled a good line. Last year Thompson dismissed Brian Lara for a "pair" when the West Indies played Kent and now he took three for 11 in his first six overs.

The Middlesex innings was belatedly consolidated by a typically determined if unglamorous innings from John Carr and Keith Brown. They were then taken past 200 by some wonderfully fluent stroke play from 17-year-old Owais Shah, who was born in Karachi. He on-drove Martin McCague for a six with an ease Hooper would have envied. Shah is a young man with an unusual talent.

Matthew Fleming started Kent's innings with three thunderous fours and then Trevor Ward, who grew in confidence, Hooper and Graham Cowdrey took them close to victory. Hooper's off-drive for six off David Follett was the stroke of the day and the product of glorious timing, for he hardly appeared to hit the ball.

Hooper and Ward put on 85 in 19 overs before Ward drove Follett to backward point. Cowdrey then helped Hooper add 62 in 14 overs before they got out in quick succession. Mark Ealham, who drove Phillip Tufnell for a huge six, saw Kent home with 16 balls to spare.

Scoreboard, page 26

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