Llong digs Kent out of a Fenland mire

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The Independent Online
Kent 275-5 Cambridgeshire 182 Kent win by 93 runs

When it is finally formed, the England Cricket Board will have as one of its objects the raising of standards in English cricket at every level. For the moment, however, this remains something of a pipe-dream; and Cambridgeshire, even with the home advantage of a slow springy pitch, were no match for a Kent side at present on top ofthe Championship table.

It may seem unfair making such sweeping conclusions from the evidence of a NatWest trophy match, but Cambridgeshire, as holders of the MCC one- day trophy, are one of the better Minor County sides around. However, from the moment Nigel Llong's maiden century helped Kent to a total of 275, the home side were never in contention, and after a promising start to the day, they made just 182 - Giles Ecclestone contributing a lusty 92.

Ditches abound in the Fens and Kent, having won the toss, found themselves deeply entrenched in one at 27 for 3, a mini-collapse precipitated more by the slow pitch than the guile of the opening bowler Kevin Masters, who was once a peripheral member of the Kent staff. Fortunately for the visitors, Llong and Mark Ealham proved an able pair of sappers, digging their team from the mire with a fourth-wicket partnership worth 104. Ealham, recently in splendid form with the ball, was first to reach his fifty. He departed soon after, however, yorked by Nadeem Mohammed.

His departure did not affect Llong who, in his fourth NatWest match, continued to accelerate, adding another 144 runs, first with Carl Hooper and then Matthew Walker. Striking the ball cleanly, he finished unbeaten on 115.

Already the prime contender for man of the match, Llong sealed the contest with a salmon leap at backward point to get rid of the home team's skipper, Nigel Gadsby. The catchknocked the stuffing out of Cambridgeshire, who had already lost Saleem Mohammed in the first over, caught behind off Dean Headley.

The recently rehabilitated fast bowler then removed Simon Kellett with a beauty that bounced and left the batsman. With Nick Adams following in the 10th over, the home sidefound themselves on 18 for 4.

After that, only Ecclestone and Brad Donelan looked able to cope, and only then on reduced terms, with even Kent's acting captain and wicketkeeper, Steve Marsh, giving himself a bowl by the end.