No little credit must go to Min Patel. It can only be a matter of time before he is given serious consideration by England. Having gone with the A team to India a year ago, the slow left-arm bowler has since been overlooked. There is a school of thought which perceives a propensity on Patel's part for bowling over the wicket, thus producing negative cricket. But it takes two, and anyway Patel is generally obliged to put his county before his figures.
Yesterday, whether bowling over the wicket or around it, he contributed to a fascinating day's play against his favourite whipping boys. In his last three matches against Lancashire Patel has helped himself to 26 wickets at the modest cost of 18 or so runs. His 5 for 65 from 28.2 overs only served to emphasise his predilection for being the thorn in Lancashire's side. More importantly for the 25-year-old economics graduate, one of his wickets was that of the England captain Mike Atherton.
A target of 340 in a minimum of 96 overs had looked remarkably generous, but Kent were determined to blot out their bottom of the table finish last year. Lancashire were looking set to cruise to victory at 190 for 2 when Martin McCague struck to dismiss Neil Fairbrother, who had put on 140 with Atherton, and Nick Speak in a couple of overs.
Patel had been wheeling away at one end then the other, chipping away at the batsmen's patience and prodding them into foolishness.
That came in the last over before tea, when Warren Hegg gave Patel's first delivery the charge and lost his middle stump. In the same over, after the interval, Ian Austin went for a big hit and holed out at cover.
Then it was Atherton's turn. He had reached 50 in 87 balls and was out some two and a half hours later, having required a further 140 deliveries for his next 48 runs. It was a measure of the caution Patel had induced.
As long as Atherton was there, a Lancashire win was on. Atherton departed to something resembling a swish over mid-wicket, which saw him lose his middle stump to Patel. His fall marked the end for Lancashire, but possibly a beginning for Patel and a great start for Kent.
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