Warwickshire enthralled by Knight's tale

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MARTIN JOHNSON

reports from Canterbury

Warwickshire 309-3 v Kent

The tourist season is still going strong in Canterbury, and all those foreign visitors keen to see a few ancient relics are being offered a choice of tours. Some of the crumblier bits of the Cathedral, or the Kent trophy cabinet.

For the past 17 years it has been home to a wide variety of spiders and dust mites, and while Kent look likely to end that barren run in the 40- over competition on Sunday, only Durham lie below them in the Championship. There has been enough behind-the-scenes stirring at Kent in recent years for a wooden spoon to be a more than handy acquisition.

Warwickshire, therefore, would have been suitably grateful that their final Championship hurdle has been set at a limbo dancer's height, and nothing that took place here yesterday suggested (on the far from safe assumption that the weather stays out of the argument) that Warwickshire will not retain their title with their sixth consecutive victory, and 14th out of 17 in all.

In Chaucerian terms, yesterday's Canterbury Tale was the Knight's - the story of a left-handed traveller who left Essex for Warwickshire in search of England recognition, and somehow managed it without scoring a century for his new employers. Yesterday, though, Nick Knight not only broke the three-figure barrier for the first time in a Championship game for Warwickshire, but also went on to rack up a career-best 174.

On a day abbreviated less than was feared by the weather (21 overs lost) Knight's innings helped Warwickshire into the sort of position they would have had in mind after opting for first use of a slow pitch which ought to take a bit of spin as (or if) the game wears on.

Knight did not quite convince the people that mattered in his two Tests this summer, otherwise he would be off to South Africa this winter rather than with the A team to Pakistan. However, this was a high-class innings lasting a shade over five hours, and contained only one blemish - a missed caught and bowled chance to Min Patel when he had made 77.

The qualifying clause in his innings was the modest quality of the Kent attack. Patel, apparently on the verge of an England cap last year, has struggled with 50 wickets at an average of 40 this summer, and if the club decide to frame a scorecard containing the names of both Martin McCague and Alan Igglesden, it may attract a decent bid from the Kent Tourist Board.

McCague, in fact, has remained fit enough to bowl nearly 400 overs this season (compared with Igglesden's 115 before yesterday) and was at his liveliest after lunch when he induced Dominic Ostler to edge into the slips, where Nigel Llong caught it on the rebound from Mark Ealham's fumble.

However, McCague is so heavy that it is hard to see him ever remaining fit for long periods, and it is perhaps a tribute to one of the better catering grounds on the circuit that McCague is far from the only Kent player best viewed through binoculars with a wide-angled lens. Their Championship record, by contrast, is a good bit leaner, without a win in 10 games.

When Warwickshire reached lunch on 130 for 0, it was difficult to see where a wicket was coming from, and it eventually required a direct hit from Matthew Fleming to run out Wasim Khan for 51.

Khan's innings was a mixture of pleasing boundaries and long periods of inertia, while Knight rarely allowed the bowlers (as 21 fours and two sixes suggests) to tie him down. His dismissal was a touch unlucky, too, caught at cover chasing a wide one - a victim of lost concentration straight after a rain break rather than any trickery from the bowler.

Photograph,

Middlesex under a cloud,

County Scoreboard, page 31

How the top two stand today

P W D L Bat Bwl Tot

Warwickshire 16 13 2 1 48 60 316

Middlesex 16 12 2 2 47 59 298

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