Kent savour a rare triumph

KENT 166 WARWICKSHIRE 167-5 WARWICKSHIRE WIN BY 5 WICKETS
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The Independent Online
There have been few balcony scenes to rival the one at the St Lawrence Ground a few seconds after 5.15pm. Min Patel, Kent's 12th man - no Juliet he - appeared, punching the air and yelling to his Kent team- mates that they were bridesmaids no more.

The abandonment of Worcester's match with Glamorgan meant that Kent had won the AXA Equity & Law Sunday League championship. Not even their impending defeat against Warwickshire, the newly crowned county champions, could prevent them taking the title.

The 8,000-plus crowd picked up the news and it went around the ground in a Mexican wave of sound. Matthew Fleming was about to begin his stint from the Nackington Road end and as he raised his arms aloft the cheer became a roar. There was more noise when the third ball of his over knocked over Dougie Brown's stumps.

In all the euphoria, the ignominy of Kent finishing last in the County Championship for the first time since 1895 was forgotten by a grateful crowd. Kent's feat emulated Yorkshire, who won the Sunday League in 1983 and finished bottom of the County Championship in the same season.

The victory by Warwickshire was merely a sideshow. They had had their moment the day before, and now Kent had something to celebrate. It did not even rain much on Kent's parade - only enough to reduce the match to a 35-over bash.

There was a deal of satisfaction for Warwickshire. Victory was enough to lift them above Worcestershire into second place, which earned them pounds 17,500.

Neil Smith's belligerent 55 went a long way to getting them there, but so did their captain, Dermot Reeve. He took a nagging 4 for 22 and helped peg back the stroke-players of Kent. Only Nigel Llong, with a 48-ball half-century, managed to make any impression on an overcast day.

But beneath the glitter of the Sunday silverware lies the memory of a woeful Championship season. Three victories, the last at the beginning of June, and a string of abysmal performances, including eight defeats since then, leaves a lot of questions.

Mark Benson, the captain, has another year of his contract to run and the contract of the coach, Daryl Foster, runs until 1997. According to informed sources at the club, there has been no sign of unrest or of heads being lined up for the block.

The batting, with the honourable exception of Aravinda de Silva (1,781 runs at almost 60) and latterly Graham Cowdrey, has not produced the goods when it had to. The bowling, while suffering from injuries to key players, notably Martin McCague and Alan Igglesden, has still proved ineffectual.

There may be pounds 35,000 in Kent's coffers as a result of winning the 40-over competition for the fourth time, but one piece of silver in the cupboard after 17 barren years hardly signals the start of a golden age. Still, the fans deserved something and the thousands of supporters gathered in front of the pavilion cheering the heroes of the hour and applauding the appearance of each individual have a few months to savour these last, delicious moments of the season before the cycle starts again.

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