Kent at a canter

BENSON AND HEDGES CUP: Home counties pair put their Midlands rivals to the sword to reach Lord's final :Kent 206-8 Northamptonshire 140 Kent win by 66 runs
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A magnificent display of out- cricket by Kent gave them a comfortable and deserving victory. Needing 207 for victory, Northamptonshire made a complete hash of chasing a moderate target, never really overcoming the loss of three early wickets as the home side bowled and fielded with purpose and guile. Kent now meet Surrey in the final on 12 July, their second Lord's appearance in three years.

The one-sided nature of this contest came as something of a surprise after Kent, batting poorly, made a total that looked 30 runs light of being competitive. But while both sides had players missing through injury - Mohammad Akram and David Capel for Northamptonshire and Graham Cowdrey for Kent - the tricky pitch, whose sporadic movement and bounce never allowed the batsmen to settle, meant that Northamptonshire were always chasing the game once Dean Headley had reduced them to 34 for 3 in the 10th over.

Sensing capitulation, the visitors' captain, Rob Bailey, embarked on a severe period of retrenchment in which two runs were scored off 28 balls. It was not the way to keep the run chase ticking over, and the pressure created from such a dilatory scoring rate eventually did for Tony Penberthy, brilliantly caught at slip by Alan Wells, as well as Bailey himself, who went caught behind chasing a wide one.

Kent's catching was simply outstanding, a feature exemplified by the diving catch made by Matthew Walker off Headley to get rid of the dangerous Kevin Curran. Walker is a chunky figure in the manner of a young Gatting, but there was undeniable grace, too, as he pulled down the sharp chance at mid-off.

With substantial inroads having been made, Paul Strang, playing with a broken little finger, mopped up the later order. Extracting a fair amount of turn, the leg-spinner lured Tim Walton and David Sales into injudicious shots.

The day began with a damp patch at one end of the pitch after an overnight storm had leaked under the covers. But although it was too full really to come into play Kent, having been put in by Bailey, batted as if it was a primeval swamp. In particular, their running between the wickets was careless to the point of recklessness, and both Trevor Ward and Nigel Llong were run out as Kent lost four wickets in seven balls.

It was not good cricket, especially from Ward whose forceful 78 had done so much to get Kent, at one stage listing on 63 for 4, back into the game. His effort was not a solo one, however, and he had a staunch ally in Mark Ealham who scored a vital 46. Together the pair added 100 for the fifth wicket, a stand that later proved decisive, on a day when batting was never comfortable.