Middlesex v Kent, County Championship, Lord's, 2nd day April 27, 2006

Walker stands firm for Kent

Middlesex 333 (Joyce 130) and 11 for 1lead Kent 308 (Walker 123) by 36 runs

Matthew Walker hit a gritty century and Martin van Jaarsveld a valuable fifty to save Kent's blushes on the second day against Middlesex at Lord's. Much as Middlesex's batsmen were indebted to Joyce yesterday, Kent's innings revolved around Walker who, van Jaarsveld apart, defied the bowler-friendly conditions and edged his side up toward respectability.

Before Walker constructed his salvage act, it was to van Jaarsveld who Kent turned. He was in action as early as the third over when his captain, Robert Key, was trapped in front by Chris Silverwood. With the ball moving around through the air, on a pitch still showing a greenish tinge, van Jaarsveld showed great class in the morning session. Demonstrating a solid technique, and moreover an unflappable temperament, he was particularly quick to punish anything short, driving handsomely through the covers and cutting hard past point. He was joined by Walker who scratched around unconvincingly for nearly 40 minutes before settling into a composed, determined innings. Together, the pair put on a face-saving partnership of 76 - but it ought not to have ended so soon.

van Jaarsveld had already been gifted two lives - he was dropped by Ben Hutton at slip from Wright's second ball so perhaps his luck had run out, but he had only himself to blame for the limp pull which brought about his demise. A mini-collapse ensued: Darren Stevens - such a gifted batsman - caressed three boundaries in a typically elegant but all too brief 15 before falling to Johan Louw. And when Justin Kemp, Kent's overseas destroyer-in-chief, prodded meekly at Jamie Dalrymple's off-spinners, Kent were wobbling on 184 for 5.

Walker was defiant, however, bringing up his fifty with a gloriously timed cut in front of point. He was severe on anything short and, in the final session, opened his shoulders when all around him were falling like flies: the last seven batsmen offered just 57 runs. The impressive Louw, in an attempt to unsettle him, produced a tantalising bouncer which Walker swung over deep square leg, emphatically, to bring up his 14th first-class hundred.

Kent were in deep trouble earlier in the day though as, led by Silverwood, Middlesex's bowlers used the murky overcast conditions to great effect. Looking strong at the crease and bowling from the Pavilion end for his new county, Silverwood produced disconcerting lift from an otherwise benign pitch - as he so often did for Yorkshire, if not England. He isn't the luckiest of bowlers, though; after David Fulton edged him through gully for the second time, he chastised himself at fine leg, chuntering away like many a Middlesex bowler has done in the past. Clearly he is settled in well.

Partnering Silverwood from the nursery end, Chris Wright, 20, showed great promise in his spells before and after lunch. His flat-footed, gentle and ambling approach to the crease proved deceptive, however - most of all to the right-handers. With prodigious outswing and many of his deliveries climbing just past the outside edge, he was unfortunate not to end up with a clutch of wickets.

Although the slate-grey skies benefited the seamers - most of whom used the conditions to good effect - Dalrymple bowled cleverly and fully deserved each of his three wickets. Having put down a simple chance at slip earlier in the day, Hutton took a fine catch to end Min Patel's innings to hand Dalrymple his second wicket. Amjad Khan, who with Walker put on 44, became Dalrymple's third victim and all of a sudden, Walker was left stranded. He finally fell for a superb 123, gifting Joyce a simple catch which gave Mohammad Ali - who bowled with aggression all day - his second wicket.

Though Kent fell short of Middlesex's 333 by 25 runs, they struck an immediate blow when the home side began their second innings. Khan found the edge of Ed Smith's bat and van Jaarsveld made up for his weak dismissal earlier in the day to take an excellent catch at second slip, to leave Middlesex 11 for 1 when bad light brought an end to the day's play

Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo