Kent are kept in the hunt by Wells

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If county cricket could always be as it was at the St Lawrence Ground yesterday morning Lord MacLaurin could stop fiddling with the game. Although there was always a sweaty threat in the air, the advertised thunderstorms stayed away but thousands of supporters did not. They filled the stands and marquees for a festival match between teams who started the day two points apart and both in touch with the leaders, Glamorgan, in a Championship that remains intriguingly open. No further incentive was necessary to produce a keen contest.

Essex are playing without Mark Ilott (bruised heel), Ashley Cowan (shoulder injury) and Nasser Hussein (higher things) while of Kent's first-choice men Dean Headley is also at Trent Bridge with England. This afforded opportunities for the Essex fast bowler Steve Andrew to play his second Championship game of the season, and Kent's batsman Will House his first ever.

Trevor Ward launched the Kent innings as if he had in mind a score of Sri Lankan proportions. The loss, however, of Ed Smith, enjoying a successful first full season, and Ward himself persuaded Alan Wells and Graham Cowdrey into some mid-morning repair work. The pitch was lively but true, and it demanded a big score.

Just before lunch Peter Such, fresh (if that is the word) from setting a Championship record of 86 overs in an innings, was greeted by a huge Wells six, and after conceding 17 runs in two overs, he wandered back into the outfield somewhat reflectively.

The arrival of rain in mid-afternoon was no surprise, and it left Wells a run short of his season's sixth Championship 50. As a top player signed on a five-year contract, an objective assessment of his season so far would rate it solid but below expectations. After a 30-minute delay, however, he moved up a notch, in league with an increasingly belligerent Cowdrey and Kent steadily took control of the day.

Paul Prichard permutated with Neil Williams and Ronnie Irani, Steve Andrew and Stuart Law, but by an large they achieved bounce without bite. Eventually Irani thudded Cowdrey's pad soon after the batsman had passed 50 and just before the monsoon arrived from Eastbourne at tea-time, Wells went down on one knee and smote the suffering Such for his third six and first Kent century.