McCague prompts surrender

Nottinghamshire 216 & 119 Kent 440 Kent win by innings & 105 runs
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The Independent Online
After rising to the rarified heights of second place in the Championship following their unlikely victory against Derbyshire last week, Nottinghamshire were made to suffer yesterday in the manner their more vocal detractors expect to become common this season.

Having conceded a first-innings lead of 224 thanks to the extended partnership between Mark Ealham and the Zimbabwean leg-spinner, Paul Strang, Nottinghamshire subsided with only occasional resistance, bowled out for 119 as Kent won by an innings and 105 runs with a day to spare.

Nottinghamshire were four down for 20 within 12 overs, the first three wickets having fallen to Martin McCague, who demonstrated while the ball was new that there was still enough in the pitch to help a bowler prepared to make the effort.

Ashley Metcalfe, who looks a shadow of the batsman who once made 2,047 runs in one season for Yorkshire, slashed to gully, where Ealham took an excellent catch. Then Graeme Archer deflected his second ball to first slip and Matthew Dowman was lbw offering no stroke, which seemed to indicate movement in the air. Even Paul Johnson, the Nottinghamshire captain and a gutsy battler, came and went, beaten by some extra bounce as Steven Marsh snapped up his seventh catch of the match behind the stumps.

How Nottinghamshire were missing the resilience of Tim Robinson and Paul Pollard, both injured. In their absence, the support for Johnson lacks experience and quality. Peter Roebuck's assertion that they barely merit first-class status is nonsense but there was no disguising the embarrassing ease with which Kent ran through them.

Wayne Noon's late defiance apart, the only batsman to emerge with credit was one who certainly lacks experience but more than compensates with application and technique. Usman Afzaal, eight days short of his 20th birthday, came into this match with three half-centuries in his previous four first-class innings. He compiled another on Thursday and seemed to be playing a different game yesterday, blunting McCague and then launching into a range of superb attacking strokes.

In one over against Matthew Fleming, Afzaal completed consecutive all- run fours off cover drives towards the long boundary underneath the William Clarke stand, his placement and weight of stroke so precise they almost seemed planned.

Earlier, Ealham's match-winning partnership with Strang, which had begun with Kent eight down and only 34 in front, had turned into a record for the county's ninth wicket, eventually broken at 171 when the latter drove Kevin Evanst to mid-off. Ealham at last went for a career-best 122 in similar fashion.

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