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Cricket: Pears ready for one-day shoot-out; CRICKET: LV COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP.

Byline: By Ged Scott at the St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury

Worcestershire's four-day form has nothing been to write home about this season, but their one-day record is none too shabby.

And, in this country's foremost archbishopric, they will be praying that remains the case in Canterbury today as the seemingly-doomed Division One backmarkers bid to salvage a much-needed victory from this so far weather-ravaged County Championship fixture.

For the third successive day, and the seventh between the two sides this summer, Kent and Worcestershire yesterday suffered a complete wash-out. That means, in a vain attempt to produce a result today, the contest has automatically become a one-innings match between the two relegation rivals,a winner-takes-all contest with 14 points on the table.

"We're going to have to try and market it now as 'The Great One-Day Shoot-out'," quipped Kent chief executive Paul Millman.

"Top of the Pro 40 Second Division against the team who are top of the First."

That is indeed the case, Worcestershire's dismal early season Championship form having been eclipsed by their so far unbeaten, table-topping run in the Pro 40. And, apart from going well in Division Two, Kent are still basking from last month's success in the Twenty20 Cup.

Today's contest will, of course, not be under normal one-day rules. If Kent win the toss, they can bat all day, claim four points each from a draw and go home.

The weather also needs to prove a touch kinder. After being abandoned at 4.30 on the first day, it was 3.45 on Wednesday, then 3.00 yesterday. And, on that descending scale, they will presumably call time today at 2.15 on the dot.

But there is at least a tinge of blue on the Kent horizon. The threatened improvement in the weather hinted at earlier in the week is now more like reality. And, although the playing surface last night remained saturated as the rain continued to fall, today's forecast is a lot better.

A warm start to the morning and a chance for the pitch to dry out suggests there could yet be an exciting day's cricket.

For that to occur, two things need to happen.

Seventh-placed Kent, who do not need the points anything like as drastically as Worcestershire, must play ball.

Second, visiting skipper Vikram Solanki must win the toss. On that score, the runes are not good for Worcestershire.

So far this season, in 12 Championship matches, the Worcestershire skipper has won just two tosses. Admittedly, two of those 12 games were complete wash-outs, for which he can hardly be blamed. But even a record of two out of ten suggests he is not the luckiest caller.

If he does call correctly when Kent captain Robert Key finally flips the coin skywards this morning, then there is cause for hope.

On the two previous occasions Solanki has won the toss, Worcester have won one (at Kidderminster against Yorkshire last week) and had much the better of the other, the ultimately rain-ruined trip to Old Trafford in May.

Mention of that early season weather-marred trip to Manchester is a reminder that, in the long-term history of cricket, Lancashire have traditionally been the hardest hit. But Worcestershire's bad luck with rain has been so woeful this summer that they now have cause to claim they have surpassed even the notoriously unlucky Lancashire as chief sufferers.

Yesterday's latest six and a half hours in the pavilion mean that Worcestershire have lost just over 120 hours of County Championship cricket, the equivalent of almost five complete matches.

"It takes the breath away when you here it put in those terms," said coach Steve Rhodes. "We had a bad start to the season and have only ourselves to blame for that. But the weather hit us in July just at a time when things were starting to turn for us. And it has affected us cruelly."

Warwickshire are the next worst affected, having lost 97 hours, closely followed by Hampshire (93), Lancashire (92) and Yorkshire (84). And it is no coincidence that the least affected have been Championship leaders Sussex who, until this week's wash-out at The Oval, had lost less than 42 hours.

But that's cricket. After all, what other sport takes up so much space in newspaper column inches talking about the weather and the toss of a coin?
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 24, 2007
Words:728
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