Kent fight on as de Silva strikes gold

Yorks 462-7 dec and 15-2 Kent 234 and 365
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The Independent Online
A BRILLIANTLY entertaining century by Aravinda de Silva set alight the session between lunch and tea here yesterday and illuminated a day on which dark clouds threatened rain but happily never delivered it.

The diminutive Sri Lankan made 100 runs in the 135 minutes between the intervals and completely outscored his partner, Mark Ealham, in the third- wicket stand of 126 that wiped out Kent's first-innings deficit. Forced to follow on late on Friday, they had started the day 216 behind with all their second innings wickets in hand.

Yorkshire's supporters ignored the pessimistic forecast and came to support the home side's push for a fourth Championship win. Victory here will lift Yorkshire to within 45 points of the leaders, Northamptonshire, over whom they have a game in hand. If for a while their bowlers were run ragged as de Silva cut, glanced, drove and pulled them to distraction, they came back strongly after tea to limit Kent to a lead of 137.

Other than the occasional delivery that bounced more or less than expected, Kent's batsmen had nothing to fear from the pitch. Moreover, there was little in Darren Gough's early overs to suggest that the England fast bowler would repeat Friday afternoon's feat of four wickets in five balls, although he again bowled well enough to confirm his fitness for Lord's on Thursday. Richard Stemp's four successive opening maidens beguiled rather than bothered, and while de Silva was attacking him wristily he posed no problems.

It took an element of luck for Yorkshire to gain their first wicket, though David Fulton should have been caught at second slip off Mark Robinson when he was on 16. It was Fulton who helped Robinson dismiss his opening partner, Trevor Ward, found out of his ground when Robinson finger-tipped Fulton's straight drive on to the non-striker's stumps. Robinson might also have claimed Ealham, the new batsman, but Craig White, diving to his left at cover, narrowly failed to cling to a fiercely struck square slash.

White immediately made amends in the next over, this time as the bowler, seducing Fulton into playing across the line to ball of full length. Until then, Fulton had been playing commendably straight for his half-century, with many of his nine fours coming square of the off stump. An upper cut of a Gough bouncer that almost cleared the third man boundary was a spectacular exception.

After lunch, de Silva was nearly torpedoed by a grubber from Peter Hartley that barely missed his off stump. His riposte was to slash Hartley high and hard over gully, and something in the way he launched himself into a glorious cover drive off Stemp in the next over signalled the kind of batting we were in for. He whipped the slow left-armer through mid-wicket with the merest flick of his wrists, and when Stemp dropped short he pulled him square. When Martyn Moxon was forced to withdraw Stemp from the firing line, de Silva irreverently hooked his replacement, White, for six over square leg.

Such was de Silva's dominance in the second session that he outpaced Ealham by 85 runs to 11. He lost his partner shortly before reaching his 100, made off 124 balls, and while his 115, containing 17 fours as well as that six, may not save Kent from defeat, it made memorable a competitive day's cricket.

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