McCague masters art of fortune telling

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The Independent Online
BARRIE FAIRALL

reports from Southampton

Kent 207 and 288

Hampshire 137 and 47-0

From the featureless to the eventful, there could hardly have been two more contrasting days of cricket here, Kent taking a grip of the game first thing yesterday amid a clatter of wickets, and continuing to squeeze the life out of Hampshire with some sensible batting on an easing wicket. Between them, Martin McCague and Neil Taylor were the toast of their team.

Mark Benson, the Kent captain, summed up the feelings of most who struggled with the bat. "It's not the sort of pitch I'd like to play on every day of the week," he said. While Benson fared better than most second time around with 47, he might have added his condolences to Hampshire, who had to face a fired-up McCague in the morning.

The fast bowler, who returned early from England's tour of Australia, had mentioned that he fancied his chances of collecting a half-decent haul. In which case his prediction was realised with four wickets in 23 deliveries in a dramatic Hampshire collapse. Taylor's 87 then compounded a day of misery for the hosts.

Hampshire had resumed four down and 92 adrift and what happened next was not so much a procession as a sprint to get back to the pavilion. Inside 45 minutes there was no one left as McCague tore through the order. Considering Hampshire had been 78 without loss at one stage on day one, the overall collapse read 10 for 59, while yesterday's little exercise saw a pathetic loss of six wickets for 22 runs in 7.2 overs.

Cardigan Connor, meanwhile, could have been forgiven if he had been caught smiling as the carnage concluded, the nightwatchman largely unperturbed on an unbeaten 14, the fourth highest score of the innings. Others could only hang their heads while the rot set in, McCague whistling out Nicholas, Stephenson, Udal and Streak.

McCague's 5 for 47 was his best since he took nine Derbyshire wickets last August, and if he was happy, so too was Taylor, whose Championship season took off with a century before lunch against Leicestershire last week. Here, with the ball seaming around, caution was called for, but there were still 10 fours in his 50.

Later, he added two sixes off Shaun Udal and by the time the off-spinner had his revenge, Taylor had helped raise 115 in 20 overs for the fourth wicket with Matt Walker, who went on to contribute a half-century. Udal's 5 for 81 may have been personally reassuring after his England one-day call up, but Hampshire were staring at a distant target of 359.

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