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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Classy Kent defy the odds
Kent celebrate their NUL victory
NUL winners Kent turned pre-season opinion on its head
By their own admission, John Wright's departure as coach at the end of the 2000 season was the best thing that could have happened to Kent's talented but under-achieving top order.

Freed from Wright's strictures, Kent made a mockery of pre-season predictions that they would face another fight against relegation from the First Division of the Championship.

They did not seriously challenge Yorkshire, but third was a highly creditable performance and they topped it off with the Norwich Union League title, their first trophy for six years and only their second in the last 23 seasons.

None of these four - David Fulton, Robert Key, Ed Smith and Matthew Walker - averaged above 25 in 2000. What a transformation in 2001: they all averaged above 40.

Australian John Inverarity, who joined the county as coaching consultant for three months, gave them the freedom to play their own way and it worked, especially for Fulton.

  Final analysis
County Championship D1: 3rd
NUL D1: Champions
B&H Cup: Group stage
C&G Trophy: QF
Player of the season: David Fulton
At the start of the season, Fulton admitted publicly that one more bad summer could put his position with the county in jeopardy.

He has no need to worry now.

He started with a century against the defending champions, Surrey, and enjoyed the best season of his career at the end of which he was being talked of as a possible England opener.

He has a sound technique, is a good player of pace-bowling and is rated highly by opposition bowlers like Martin Bicknell, the First Division's most successful seam bowler.

In all, Fulton scored eight Championship centuries and made 1,729 runs at 78.59.

Key, who was chosen for England's national Academy, Smith and Walker could not match that but they managed nine centuries between them to erase memories of a wretched year in 2000 when only the presence of Rahul Dravid gave Kent's batting any stability.

David Fulton's 2001 summer was his best yet
David Fulton's batting was a cornerstone of Kent's successful summer
Dravid's replacement as overseas player did not last long.

Darryl Cullinan managed only three matches because of a knee injury.

Andrew Symonds was a worthy replacement, averaging 46.91 himself and playing an important part in Kent's one-day success.

The batsmen were supported well by the bowlers.

Martin Saggers is one of the most under-rated bowlers in the country. He took 57 wickets at 20.14 in 2000 and followed that with 63 at 24.12.

Ben Trott was given his chance as Saggers' new-ball partner and he had an encouraging first full season, taking 47 wickets in 13 games.

Mark Ealham's international career appears to be over, but he is still a useful performer at county level.

Left-arm spinner Min Patel provided solid back-up, taking 36 wickets and giving his captain Matthew Fleming control. He conceded his runs at only 2.3 per over.

Fleming himself had a patchy season, struggling for wickets and runs, while the major disappointment was that wicket-keeper Paul Nixon did not do enough to gain selection for England's winter tours. He scored 554 runs at 32.58.

It was a solid performance, but Warren Hegg's return was far more impressive and he was chosen as Alec Stewart's replacement instead.

Perversely, the success of Kent's top order probably limited Nixon's opportunities.

See also:

05 Aug 01 |  Kent
Fulton deserves a chance
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