Johnson shines through as clouds clear

Kent 498-9 dec & 26-0 dec Leicester 160-4 dec & 367-4 Leicester win by 6 wickets
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The Independent Online
The sun shone on Leicestershire's backs at last yesterday and they responded with deep gratitude to record a second victory of the season.

An enjoyably fluctuating match was won by unbeaten centuries from the Zimbabwean Neil Johnson and the Corby boy Ben Smith, who had come together before lunch with 221 still needed off 65 overs. The remaining batsmen were required to do no more than offer increasingly raucous encouragement from the dressing-room balcony as the fifth-wicket pair demoralised an attack badly missing England's Dean Headley.

Since the Britannic Assurance pennant was raised over Grace Road last September, Leicestershire have looked like champions only of water-divining. Although unbeaten in nine matches before this one, they have drawn eight of those, losing the equivalent of 14 days' play to bad weather.

Another 111 overs were lost here and after allowing Kent's topsy-turvy batting to recover from 126 for 5 on the first day to 498 for 9 before the rain came, Leicestershire were not in a strong negotiating position. If the outcome of talks between the captains - 365 to win in 105 overs - looked favourable to Kent, their visitors survived a tricky period on Friday evening without loss and set to work yesterday, running up 71 in the first hour.

Kent ensured that there was ebb as well as flow by dismissing both openers in that period. Martin McCague, having been hammered for three fours by Vince Wells in his second over, persevered down the hill to have Darren Maddy caught behind nicking an away-swinger. Then Paul Strang's leg-spin briefly slowed the run-rate as well as removing Wells' middle stump for a belligerent 39.

Nigel Llong displayed the same tenacity as McCague, inducing James Whitaker to play on after being knocked around in his opening over. That was 103 for 3 and a fourth wicket before lunch appeared to have tilted the balance Kent's way.

Iain Sutcliffe, slow to set off for a run, survived what was believed to be the first ever adjudication by the third umpire in a Championship match - BSkyB were covering the one match they are allowed each summer. But he was less fortunate in touching Matthew Fleming to Steve Marsh, boldly standing up to him to take an exemplary catch.

Marsh's one lapse came in an important period after lunch as Johnson and Smith began to wrest back control. Johnson, on 46, edged Mark Ealham low, and Marsh, diving to his left, made a rare hash of what should have been his third catch.

Smith, fully recovered from a hand injury that reduced his effectiveness earlier in the season, now matched his partner run-for-run against some undistinguished bowling and finished the match with a flurry of fours.

It was a second century for the tall, left-handed Johnson, who was hurried over from Natal as belated overseas replacement for Phil Simmons. As captain of the only unbeaten team left in the Championship, Whitaker believes all is still possible.

Kent must wonder what further misery is possible for them. As well as conceding the Benson & Hedges Cup final in such abject fashion eight days ago, they have now followed four successive Championship victories with three defeats in a row.

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