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Irish eyes are smiling after New Road draw

KENT'S rookie wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien was the hero as injury-plagued Kent held out for a draw with Worcestershire.

In only his fifth first-class appearance 23-year-old O'Brien, fresh from a career-best 67 in the first innings, batted out the last 14 overs of a tense game to finish unbeaten on 20.

In tandem with last man and former Worcestershire bowler Alamgir Sheriyar (0), Dublin-born O'Brien survived the last 5.1 overs to clinch the draw.

O'Brien trotted off to an ovation from his team-mates with Kent 244 for nine for an extra four points for the draw that keeps Kent second in Frizzell Division 1.

Having been set 439 in 84 overs for victory at an unlikely asking rate of 5.23 an over.

Kent's run chase task became nigh on impossible when Rob Key failed to emerge from the pavilion to open the reply.

The right-hander from Beckenham, who has been named in England's one-day squad, was suffering with a migraine and unable to bat.

Then, nine overs into the reply, Michael Carberry was forced to retire hurt after being struck on the helmet by a Matt Mason lifter.

That left James Tredwell (45) and Ed Smith (35) at the crease, but both players went soon after lunch.

Tredwell lost his off stump to a Matt Mason shooter, then Smith edged to slip off Gareth Batty.

Carberry emerged to resume his innings and played fluently for 64 while Andrew Symonds, struggling with a strained Achilles scored nine in 64 minutes.

But then both players went in the space of six balls either side of tea to set Kent alarm bells ringing.

Pushing forward to Batty, Symonds edged a regulation slip catch to Graeme Hick and then Carberry followed a Kabir Ali leg-cutter to edge to the keeper.

Matt Walker (14)sliced a drive to Stephen Peters at third slip and Alex Loudon (12) turned an Andrew Hall lifter to Ben Smith at short leg.

Key, well enough to bat after his migraine, came in with 22 overs remaining but had reached just 10 when he lunged out of his crease to Gareth Batty to be stumped by Steve Rhodes.

Simon Cusden went leg before without scoring and Ben Trott (12) hung around for six overs before edging a Andy Bichel leg-cutter to second slip.

But despite having six fielders around the bat, Kent's last pair held firm for the draw when Sheriyar survived Batty's last over.

Having had their fingers burnt in a run chase deal back at St Lawrence in April, Worcestershire batted on for 34 minutes of the final day in adding 65 runs before declaring on 405 for six.

Trott with four for 109 was the pick of Kent attack, taking the wickets of Smith (127) and Vikram Solanki (86).

Worcestershire 12pts, Kent 12pts.

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