Wren the architect for Kent

Kent 316 and 17-0 Northants 133 and 196 Kent won by 10 wickets
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The Independent Online
When Kent won the County Championship in 1970, they rushed remarkably from the bottom of the table on 1 July to the top. No such meteoric measures are needed this time because they became more firmly entrenched among the six realistic title contenders yesterday.

Northamptonshire were beleaguered by the left-arm pace of Tim Wren and bewitched by Carl Hooper's off-spin. Wren, deputising for the injured Mark Ealham, captured all the first five wickets for 49 in 16 overs, but was not to be recalled because Hooper took four for two in 26 balls after lunch.

Northamptonshire's performance was puny and pitiful. As John Emburey, the chief coach, observed: "I have seen these boys play. They are all genuine first-class cricketers but they are not gelling as a team."

They were rolled over and the game wrapped up in almost a presentation pack for Kent, who were bottom last season, within an hour after lunch. When a few drops of heavy rain fell with one run required, Barrie Meyer, the senior umpire, feigned to remove the bails and leave the field, with a grin. Matthew Walker promptly whacked a full toss from Jeremy Snape to the square-leg boundary and what had seemed inevitable from the middle of the second afternoon came to pass with more than a day to spare.

Kent's third win at the ground in 42 years was richly deserved on a relaid pitch that provided uneven bounce at the old football ground end. It suited Wren and Martin McCague.

Northamptonshire looked what they are - a callow batting unit without Rob Bailey, the captain, and following the retirement of Allan Lamb. Their front line stroke-players are basically modest middle-order men at this stage of their careers, though Kevin Curran remains a forthright practitioner with the short-arm jab.

Curran's blow on the helmet from Dean Headley six overs into the morning and the temporary "retired hurt" entry on the scorers' computer hinted that Kent would have few further problems. His return, after a hospital check, was brief, with Hooper penetrating his intended drive.

It was downhill from there for Kent, whose fielding, like their bowling, was champion pedigree. Their first-day batting from 146 for five also had fighting qualities recognisable in the best.

Simon Willis, the bookmakers' 12-1 long-shot to be the top scorer in Kent's first innings, had defeated the odds with 78. He also caught Richard Montgomerie from the first ball after lunch. Hooper's figures were four for seven and McCague harvested his 50th Championship wicket this season. For the deputy captain, Trevor Ward, this match was his first in charge with a win to brighten many a Kentish Sunday breakfast.