Marsh's stoicism a boon for Kent

Yorkshire 312 Kent 374
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The Independent Online
A rum old tussle is developing here with Kent and Yorkshire, two of the Championship's top three teams scrapping for position in next week's endgame. With second-placed Glamorgan likely to take a full complement of points from their match with Essex, no quarter will be asked or given over the next two days, though Yorkshire will have to compete without their effervescent fast bowler Darren Gough, who tore a hamstring.

That said Kent, who have not won a Championship match here since the war, have probably edged ahead in spite of a wholehearted career best by Chris Silverwood, who took 7 for 93. With Gough's premature departure, it was just reward for some marvellous fast bowling that combined both aggression and swing.

Striking with the three key wickets of Alan Wells, Mark Ealham and Graham Cowdrey, either side of lunch, Silverwood gave Yorkshire real hope of taking a substantial first-innings lead. Once more though, Kent, with their unyielding lower order again scoring the important runs, managed to finish the day 62 runs ahead, their inspirational captain Steve Marsh the penultimate man out for a stoic 84.

Marsh is having quite a season. He has never been a mug with the bat, but the 821 first-class runs he has so far scored this season surely make him the finest No 9 in the land. He is also one of the bravest, and despite a painful blow to his right thumb when Craig White thudded a bouncer home, he continued, uncomplaining, as a series of trademark stiff-legged clips and pick-ups, found the fence at square leg.

Many sides, who have got rid of Kent's early order have come unstuck against the tail. It happened again yesterday, when having reduced the visitors to 202 for 7, Yorkshire allowed them to reach 374, eventually bowling the last man Alan Igglesden out, moments before bad light and rain lopped 14 overs off the day's play.

There were half centuries too for Trevor Ward and Matthew Fleming and a handy contribution of 40 from the night-watchman Dean Headley. Few players hit the ball as hard as Ward, who having dealt almost exclusively in boundaries - 48 of his 56 runs coming in fours - was bowled leg-stump as he attempted another.

Fleming too, gives the ball a mighty thump. Coming to the crease during Silverwood's triple strike either side of the lunch gong, the all-rounder was the dominant partner as 83 runs were made for the eighth wicket with Marsh. Once again it needed Silverwood to end yet another important cameo.

With Gough leaving the field in mid-afternoon and Paul Hutchison unable to find any swing, Silverwood was left to plough a lonely furrow. Running down the hill at the Kirkstall Lane end, he bowled 23.3 overs.

On the evidence of yesterday, he has made considerable strides since his forays for England in Zimbabwe last winter. On a slow pitch, several Kent batsmen attested to his short ball, saying it was the quickest thing many of them had faced all season.

It could have been a tricky day for Kent, who now both look and play like a team, a state of affairs in stark contrast to the side who finished bottom two years ago. If they do go on to win the Championship it would be a triumph for such a wholehearted organism, and mud in the eye for the more flamboyant but under-achieving clubs around.

In a two divisional Championship, they would not have been able to go so readily from top to bottom. Something that counties would do well to remember next Monday, when they vote on the matter at Lord's.

More reports, scoreboard, page 26