Willis leads the Kent revival

Kent 316; Northamptonshire 3-0
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The Independent Online
This became a fulfilling day for Kent, placed joint fifth. They weathered injury problems and a collapse to stretch the Northamptonshire attack to seven bowlers, each of them, remarkably, taking a wicket.

Simon Willis, with 78, in only his sixth match, turned his status as reserve wicketkeeper to Steve Marsh, the injured captain, into a Championship- best batting performance. He struck 12 fours from 118 balls, having turned a crisis at 146 for 5 into three batting points. Kent's opening stand had been worth 77 runs.

Willis, aged 22, from Greenwich, also deputised for Marsh in the previous match against Worcestershire, scoring 50 for once out and sustained the favourable impression as Kent bestowed the captaincy on Trevor Ward for the first time.

Ward inherited the role because Carl Hooper, the deputy- captain last week, had opted to relinquish the duties. Ward began with a melancholy second-ball duck, taken at second slip, but Northamptonshire's catching lacked precision, as it has throughout the summer.

While Kent appreciated bits and pieces innings from David Fulton, Matthew Walker, Matthew Fleming, Min Patel and Hooper three distinct chances were fumbled. Tony Penberthy put down Fulton on five at second slip off Curtly Ambrose, and Willis was twice dropped, by Kevin Curran at third slip on four off Paul Taylor, and on 47 by Ambrose off Jeremy Snape.

Ambrose had earlier done his own impression of Mr Motivator while standing at first slip, giving ball-by-ball encourgament to Penberthy. Curran once responded with, "You can do better than that, Curtly" while standing in a similar position after Ambrose bowled an off-target delivery. Northamptonshire were hyped up and unrecognisable as a third-from-bottom team but Kent's revival drained their verbal encouragement.

Mal Loye, who contributed 69 when Northamptonshire frustrated Leicestershire on Monday, had been sadly dropped. With 11 overs available, bad light restricted their reply to three overs on a pitch which had some cracks and variable bounce, but little to disturb the vigilant.