Kent kept afloat by wary Ward

Kent 154 Gloucestershire 9-0
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The Independent Online
Coming straight from their heady victory over Hampshire at Canterbury, Kent were brought back to earth with a nasty bump by the pitch at the County Ground yesterday. Only Trevor Ward was able to cope with the uneven bounce, which admirably suited Gloucestershire's seam bowlers and Courtney Walsh in particular.

The day began with any amount of mathematical possibilities, but by the end it had all boiled down to a simple equation as far as Kent are concerned. If they pick up four bowling points, which they should, they can only win the championship if Leicestershire lose to Middlesex, even if they collect all eight bonus points in doing so.

When Gloucestershire began their innings before tea, they were only able to score nine runs in 12 overs before the interval and both Matthew Windows and Nick Trainor were lucky to survive against Martin McCague, Dean Headley and Mark Ealham. A Kent victory is by no means an impossibility.

There was a dramatic start to the day when, in the first over, Matthew Walker shuffled across his stumps to a ball of full length from Walsh to which he should have been forward and was lbw. The second wicket fell at 49 when Matthew Fleming, after a more thoughtful innings than usual, pushed firmly at Mark Alleyne and was caught at second slip.

After one effortless cover drive, Carl Hooper defended from the crease against Andrew Symonds and was lbw to a ball which nipped back and kept low. Later in the over, Nigel Llong was torpedoed and bowled by one which hit the stumps about four inches above the ground.

Ealham then drove at Mike Smith and Jack Russell held a brilliant right- handed diving catch and Kent were 94 for 5 at lunch. It got worse for them afterwards, too, when Walsh removed Graham Cowdrey in his first over and Steve Marsh and Min Patel in his second. Cowdrey and Marsh pushed defensively and were caught off the edge, while Patel fended at a short one.

Walsh finished with 4 for 50 in 15 overs and is now the leading wicket- taker this year with 81 to his name at a cost of less than 18 runs each. He has not only bowled brilliantly but has given so much in every way to Gloucestershire cricket. They will miss him sorely if the West Indies Board make it impossible for the current West Indies' captain to come back to Bristol next year.

While all this destruction was going on, Ward played a superb innings. It took him 44 overs to reach a largely unruffled 50 by which time eight wickets were down and he then went for his strokes, driving and hooking with a certain panache.

He played one pull against Alleyne which Symonds caught at deep square leg. Realising he was about to step over the boundary, Symonds palmed the ball up like a goalkeeper, went over the boundary and then came back and caught the rebound. A fielder is not allowed to do this and, as the batsmen did not run, the umpires rightly decided that it should go down as a runless ball. The next ball Ward skied to mid-on.