Wells gives Kent runs to play with

Kent 305 Gloucestershire 12-0
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The Independent Online
There was an unfocused look to events at the St Lawrence Ground yesterday. If there was an edge to this top-of-the-table match, then it was blurred. Third-placed Gloucestershire clawed back one point, but Kent are unlikely to be too bothered. The wicket has bounce and turn and Kent have Paul Strang in their line-up.

The Zimbabwe leg-spinner already has more than 50 Championship wickets to his name and in the one over he had at Gloucestershire's openers he posed an immediate threat, finding the edge of Dominic Hewson's bat and drawing anguished cries from his team-mates as the ball scuttled to the boundary instead of to a pair of eager Kent hands.

Dean Headley also looked menacing and exploited the bounce from the off, rattling Hewson's rib cage with a brute of a delivery. Things are likely to become harder rather than easier, so Kent will probably be content with their first-innings score.

If they did not exactly scratch around for runs, nor did they fill their boots. Maybe it was the early start, maybe there was an autumnal feel to the atmosphere, but the Championship leaders were in trouble not long after the start, losing their openers David Fulton and Ed Smith within 11 overs.

When Trevor Ward also departed not long afterwards, it needed the experience of Alan Wells to see them out of immediate trouble. At times Wells, the former Sussex captain, was majestic. No matter what Gloucestershire tried (and he faced six of the seven bowlers they employed during the day), Wells was the equal of it.

The manner in which he took some of his 17 boundaries quite took the breath away. Gloucestershire's captain Mark Alleyene was driven imperiously through the covers on a number of occasions and once or twice cut hard to the boundary.

Not even the former England fast bowler David Lawrence was spared. Wells has been the man in form for Kent, having scored a lot more runs in the Championship than his team-mates. His dismissal came as a total surprise, caught down the leg side off his chief source of runs, Alleyne.

By then he had shown the way, though. Matthew Fleming roared into the forties, while Mark Ealham anchored himself at the other end. Matthew Walker, restored to the side courtesy of a back injury to Graham Cowdrey, played his part in a 117-run fourth-wicket stand with Wells and the tail dragged Kent to a third bonus point. Now it is the turn of their bowlers.

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