Thompson lays down the law

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Essex 225-6; Kent 226-9 Kent win by one wicket

Julian Thompson has had a remarkable introduction to the Benson and Hedges Cup. Three wickets against Middlesex last week earned him the Gold Award, and he completed a man- of-the-match double with a couple of cheap wickets and a nerveless performance with the bat to help steer Kent to victory with two balls to spare over Essex at chilly Chelmsford.

Poor Essex just lost out, with the responsibility for the last over falling on the relatively inexperienced shoulders of their overseas player, the Australian Stuart Law, when perhaps they might have been better served by bringing on the under-used Ronnie Irani.

Kent needed eight runs off that last over, and a wide from Law did not help the Essex cause. Thompson, a junior houseman at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, pinched a single, and his last-wicket partner, Min Patel, edged a boundary and then dabbed the winning runs next ball.

Victory virtually assured Kent, with a superior run-rate in Group C, of a third successive quarter-final appearance, and their fifth in six years.

Essex are also still in with a shout, depending on everyone else's results and a victory over Somerset next Tuesday. There were some heroic performances from both teams throughout an absorbing day.

The West Indies Test all-rounder Carl Hooper contributed 45 runs in 57 balls to the Kent effort, having earlier picked up two Essex wickets. Nasser Hussain began scratchily but finished well in making 82, while Irani knocked up 43, including two thumping sixes in an Essex total that never really looked enough, as well as taking a brilliant catch at mid- on to account for Hooper. But there was a symmetry to Thompson's day.

He began by dismissing Graham Gooch, a wicket which gave him an unusual treble. In the space of seven days he has claimed the wickets of three England captains, the previous pair being Mike Gatting last Tuesday in the this competition and Mike Atherton in Saturday's County Championship game.

Thompson followed that by accounting for the Essex captain, Paul Prichard, who by then had had his right index finger strapped up after a sharp delivery from Martin McCague had drawn blood.

Hussain and Law clicked along for 66 useful runs and when Law fell to Hooper, Irani shared in a stand of 86, but the innings lacked momentum throughout. No one on either side really took things by the scruff of the neck, and so Kent squeezed in by a nose.