McCague floors Essex

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The Independent Online


reports from Canterbury

Kent 221-6 Essex 200 Kent win by 21 runs

Kent may not have donned their Sunday best in a batting sense, but they certainly dealt pretty smartly here with Essex on the bowling front to remain top of the league. In a dramatic conclusion to yesterday's proceedings, Martin McCague took 5 for 40, the fast bowler spearheading a fifth consecutive victory.

At 175 for 3, Essex appeared to be cruising home after parrying the first couple of thrusts from McCague, Nasser Hussain and Ronnie Irani having put together 73 without any undue alarms. From then on, though, it was carnage as the last seven wickets went for 25 runs in five overs.

With 47 needed, Hussain - who had registered the highest of his seven Sunday half-centuries this summer - was bowled by Mark Ealham for 83 and Ealham took a catch at short midwicket in the next over off Dean Headley to get rid of Irani for 30.

Re-enter McCague, who ripped out Darren Robinson and Rob Rollins with successive deliveries. With 26 needed off three overs, Matthew Fleming removed Mark Ilott for a duck, and as McCague steamed in again, Steve Marsh ran out Jonathan Lewis, while Darren Cousins had his stumps re-arranged next ball.

Kent, meanwhile, had chosen to bat first, although if this was a sign of confidence it was not reflected in the rather frantic way that they went about their run making this time. In fact, Kent supporters along the 9,000 present had precious little to cheer about.

Mark Benson and Trevor Ward had given the innings a sound start with 43 from 10 overs, but when Benson gave way to Aravinda de Silva, things began to go wrong. The Sri Lankan had made 95 off 95 balls on Saturday in the sorry Championship defeat by Essex, but now he holed out in the deep without reaching double figures.

Ward and Graham Cowdrey both then went leg before attempting to sweep the off-spin of Peter Such, and Fleming continued to give Lewis catching practice in the deep. It was left then to Ealham and Nigel Llong to jolly things along in a crucial partnership of 61 in eight overs for the sixth wicket.