Tall order for Derbyshire

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Derbyshire, last season's runners-up, have a fight on their hands to avoid defeat in their opening match at Canterbury after their bowlers let Kent off the hook yesterday morning.

Set 337 to win, they reached 59 for 2 before rain halted play for the day in mid-afternoon. Much will depend today on the third-wicket pair, Chris Adams and Dean Jones, unbeaten on 33 and 19 respectively.

To make matters worse for Derbyshire, there were groin injuries to Philip DeFreitas, who earlier finished with 7 for 64 - his best for Derbyshire - and Dominic Cork, who will miss the one-day games tomorrow and on Monday.

In addition Andy Hayhurst tore a cartilage in his right knee after falling awkwardly in the field and 47-year-old Australian coach Les Stillman was called upon to take over from him.

Kent's last four wickets added 153, with Paul Strang making 69 at a run a ball and Martin McCague hitting an unbeaten 53.

Keith Newell completed his maiden championship century before persistent rain frustrated Sussex's hopes of establishing a commanding first-innings lead over Northamptonshire at Hove.

The 25-year-old from Crawley, who resumed on 91 with the hosts 344 for 6, had advanced to 107 when rain cut short the day after only 55 minutes' play. Sussex, 29 ahead overnight, stretched their lead to 96, reaching 411 for 7.

The defending champions Leicestershire's hopes of starting the season with a victory were also hit by the weather. Not a ball was bowled at Grace Road, where the hosts hold a 62-run lead over Gloucestershire, who are eight without loss in their second innings.

The day was made all the gloomier for Leicestershire when they learned that they had failed to sign the South African all-rounder Neil Johnson as their overseas player to replace Phil Simmons for this season. Johnson had agreed to join but was also under contract with the Northern League side Netherfield. Leicestershire's offer of compensation was turned down by Netherfield and Johnson will play league cricket instead.

There was no play either at Old Trafford, where Durham are the visitors, but Lancashire's new pounds 1.25m indoor cricket centre was opened by the club president, Brian Statham. Lancashire's England captain, Mike Atherton, was also present and said: "These facilities are right up there with the best. There is a good facility at Lord's, one at Headingley and along with Old Trafford they will be the best three in England."

Only 10 balls could be bowled before Cambridge University's match against Middlesex was abandoned as a draw because of rain. Dickie Bird was awarded life membership of Cambridge University Cricket Club to mark his last appearance at Fenner's before his retirement. The presentation was made by the former England batsman, Derek Randall, who now coaches the University side.