Kent given bumpy ride

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The Independent Online

v Kent

Even though they set a victory target of 399, this was not the sort of wicket to induce complacency in the Kent ranks. With pace and a steep but true lift, interspersed with variable bounce, there were ample incentives for accurate seam bowlers. The pitch's character, though, had changed little since the opening day of this battle between two sides aiming to exert pressure on the championship leaders, when three of the visiting batsmen notched centuries.

Devon Malcolm clearly relished the chance to see the Kent batsmen ducking for cover. All too often, though, his bouncers lacked direction and therefore menace. Carl Hooper, however, readily accepted the first invitation to hook but was deceived by the pace, catching his shot high on the bat to loop a catch to square leg. Ed Smith was another victim of Malcolm's speed, unsuccessfully aiming to force through the off side on the back foot for the second successive delivery and offering a head-high slip catch to Cliff Adams.

Phillip DeFreitas, who had also erred on the short side, bowled an unbroken spell in the first morning session and his afternoon breather was interupted when Andrew Harris pulled up injured. Matthew Fleming, conscious of the need to maintain Kent's scoring momentum, mistimed a pull to offer a gentle catch to mid-wicket and become the only victim of the morning for DeFreitas.

When Martin McCague was the sixth man out at 100, Kent were at their most vulnerable. Nigel Llong, however, one of the three centurions on Thursday, accepted the responsibility of anchor man and played the short ball with studious application.

Llong also cleverly carried the attack to when spin made an initial and brief one-over appearance after lunch. Hitting two fours from Matthew Vandrau's first two deliveries, he further stretched the bowling resources available to Dean Jones.

Dean Headley provided invaluable support, contributing a measured 38 of their 77 stand. His departure, again hurried into top-edging a Malcolm delivery, was quickly followed by Llong's downfall. He became Malcolm's 10th victim of the match when he prodded at a wide delivery to offer another fine low catch to Adams at slip.

The Kent tale then frustrated 's attack, which was further depleted when DeFreitas suffered a knee injury, until skipper Steve Marsh, batting at No 11 because of a broken index finger, completed Malcolm's six-wicket haul.