Reeve takes champions to brink

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Cricket

MARTIN JOHNSON

reports from Canterbury

Warwickshire 468-6 dec Kent 239 and 18-0

The Old Dover Road might disappear under the weight of traffic for Kent's crucial Sunday League match, and there was a time yesterday when the home team's strategy appeared to revolve around launching Warwickshire so swiftly into the Championship champagne that the opposition would scarcely be able to stand up tomorrow afternoon, never mind play.

At 20 for 4 in reply to 468 for 6 declared, Kent were threatening to evaporate inside two days with a performance that was as invertebrate as it was incompetent, and while Graham Cowdrey's exhilarating century may well have done no more than postpone Warwickshire's party, it at least forced the champions to break sweat.

No one puts more perspiration into his game than Dermot Reeve, and the Warwickshire captain picked up 5 for 30, including the wicket of Cowdrey, before asking Kent to bat again with a deficit of 229. Kent resume on 18 for 0, and although there is nothing in the pitch for the bowlers, a more significant detail might be that there is nothing in the match for Kent.

It could be said that the wooden spoon is at stake, but there is nothing Kent can do to avoid it if Durham beat Gloucestershire, and, on all the evidence from this match, cricket's invisible booby prize will find a thoroughly well deserved home in Canterbury.

Warwickshire, resuming at 309 for 3, added a further 159 in 31 overs before declaring five minutes before lunch, and nice though it was for Roger Twose to make a century in what will probably be his last first- class innings before emigrating to New Zealand, one of the tea ladies would have been hard pressed not to score a hundred against some of Kent's bowling.

There has been more animated body language on a mortician's slab than was emanating from Martin McCague yesterday, and Neil Smith butchered the occasional off-spin of Nigel Llong so mercilessly that he clubbed two sixes and five fours in a 35-ball half-century. Twose also hit a six, off Min Patel, but was generally the passive partner in a stand of 96 in 14 overs with Smith.

The left-handed Twose, who will be hard to replace next season, was making his eighth Championship century for Warwickshire, and his first away from Edgbaston. Twose was only joking when he pinned a welcome message on Brian Lara's locker - "the world's second-best left-hander" - but he was miffed enough at being overlooked by England last summer to decide to throw in his lot with New Zealand.

Kent's impoverished performance in the field also included a pitiful effort to catch Smith (on 4) by Mark Ealham at mid-on, although it was Ealham, in company with Cowdrey, who led Kent's fightback after the top order had suggested that they were having an early net for tomorrow's coloured pyjama game.

Two of them, Trevor Ward and Matthew Walker, got out to shots that would even have brought a guffaw from a Sunday crowd. Ward, having missed a pull off Michael Bell to a ball which passed over middle stump, played an identical swat next ball and had his off pole plucked out. Walker, hoicking through midwicket, got a leading edge to mid-off.

Cowdrey might have been out for 18 when a horrid slog at the left-arm spinner Ashley Giles was miscued safely between two offside fielders, but, thereafter, Cowdrey's counter-attack was largely the product of high pedigree strokeplay. Reeve finally got him the ball after completing his century in 192 minutes (14 fours, one six) although it took a brilliant catch in the covers from Smith off a full-blooded drive.

Surgery for Malcolm, County Scoreboard, page 23

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