Hooper's eruption blows Kent to summit

Click to follow
Kent 244 and 215-3 Nottinghamshire 214 and 242 Kent win by seven wickets

What a difference a year makes. Last September Kent were bottom of the heap; this morning they head the County Championship. There is only a point in it, but they are still top. Kent had their moments yesterday though, notably when they were struggling to winkle out the last Nottinghamshire pair, and later, before Carl Hooper exploded into action, they got bogged down on the way to the modest victory target of 213 off 67 overs.

That they eventually made it with a comfortable 13-plus overs to spare owed much to a stunning display of destructive batting from Hooper, who at his best is great. He had spent 18 overs pinging the occasional boundary as he worked his way to 41 before he detonated. In 25 deliveries of mayhem, Hooper clubbed a six and nine boundaries to transform the match.

Sadly, this may be one of the last glimpses Kent supporters have of this exhilarating batsman. It is being reported that Durham will move for Hooper if they fail to entice the India test captain, Sachin Tendulkar, to take over leadership of their struggling side. If Hooper accepts the offer he is expected to sign a deal worth pounds 150,000 over two years. There is one problem: Hooper has a year to run on his contract with Kent, although he is apparently allowed to renegotiate at the end of each year.

He will be missed. Hooper has amassed 1,183 runs at an average of 51 in helping to steer Kent back into the big time. But they do not rely solely on Hooper for runs. Trevor Ward, having spent an idle 20 minutes while Hooper was raining blows on Nottinghamshire, regained the strike when his partner was caught behind trying to run one down to third man, and he progressed to his sixth Championship fifty.

He was quite content, as he had been with Hooper, to let his new partner, Nigel Llong, take up the cudgels, which he did to great effect. The left- hander got hold of one Andy Afford delivery and dispatched the slow left- armer for six. The Llong hit over long-on resulted in a smashed window in the pavilion. The pair knocked off the remaining 50 runs in eight overs.

Yet there had been a danger during the morning session that Kent's bowlers might have let Nottinghamshire off the hook. Martin McCague did have Chris Tolley caught by Steve Marsh off his second delivery of the day. But there was a lack of menace in the attack, which allowed Kevin Evans to make a half-century and add respectability to the Nottinghamshire score, but did little for their position just above the foot of the table.