Walker steps into Taylor's shoes

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The Independent Online
Kent 413-4 v Somerset

As Kent brought down the curtain on one opener's career, so the spotlight fell on the start of another. Neil Taylor's 18 years with Kent is finally over with the news that the county is to release him. Taylor's 13 centuries on the St Lawrence Ground is the most by a Kent batsman, beating Sir Colin Cowdrey and Frank Woolley, who both scored 12.

The young pretender, Matthew Walker, aged 22, yesterday scored the first of what promises to be a fair few first-class hundreds on the ground. His quality innings ensured Kent had four batting bonus points in the bag well before the end to pull them to within three points of the leaders, Surrey, who are not playing in this round of matches.

Walker's all-day effort was the second first-class hundred of his stop- start career. He made his debut for the county on Kent's tour of Zimbabwe in 1993, when he was the England Under-19 captain. The next season, 1994, when he finally broke into the Championship side he scored his maiden century against Surrey. Since then, things have been patchy.

That was until the latter part of this season, when an accumulation of circumstances - the dropping of players, injuries and changes in the batting order - conspired to engineer his return. On this form he is in the side to stay. The chunky left-hander was presented with plenty of easy shots as an injury-hit Somerset attack proved anything but offensive.

England's Andy Caddick pulled out before the start, suffering from a back twinge, and midway through the afternoon Somerset's most successful seamer, Jason Kerr, hobbled out of the action with what appeared to be a hamstring problem. That exposed a wayward Somerset attack to a hail of boundaries as Walker, Carl Hooper and Trevor Ward, in particular, made regular incursions over the boundary on a day when 64 fours and two sixes (both by Hooper) contributed 268 runs to the Kent cause. The 5ft 6in Walker shared in two century partnerships, with Ward and Hooper - who fell 24 runs shy of his hundred - as well as an opening stand of 57 with David Fulton, their third half-century compilation in five innings.

Walker's powerful driving and pulling, coupled with his incisive cuts and neat tucks off his legs, earned him 28 of those boundaries, and the only false shots were played long after he had cruised past his previous highest score of 107, coming at 144 and again when he had reached 171.