KENT avoided an upset AXA League defeat by last year's joint-worst one-day county by finishing 0.71 of a run ahead of the asking rate when rain stopped play after 26 overs of their reply at the St Lawrence ground yesterday.
The finish, if the end could be so called, was marred by confusion under the Duckworth-Lewis adjustment method. A target figure was not recorded adequately on the scoreboard, and only the scorers with their computer knew who had won when the umpires called a halt.
The players realised it was close, and Middlesex thought the match was tied, but a single by Alan Wells off the fifth ball of the last over tipped the balance. If Middlesex had saved that run off Tim Bloomfield, they would have beaten last year's runners-up.
Mark Ramprakash, Middlesex's captain, double-checked in despair with the scorers and had the bad news confirmed. Middlesex were understandably angry and upset, because they deserved victory, with their bowlers hampered by a rain-soaked ball for the last half-hour.
Middlesex are not going to repeat last summer's appalling record, when they won only five one-day games. With Durham, they were the worst of all counties, scarcely believable on yesterday's evidence.
They recovered well from a creaking platform - 90 for four in the 22nd over. Jason Pooley strong-armed his way to a chanceless 94 off 79 balls with help from a short boundary on the downhill lime tree side.
Justin Langer batted resourcefully against the moving ball early on before he was run out by Martin McCague's quick throw.
Kent, as strong a side as any, will do better than this. They struggled against Middlesex's seam attack, notably James Hewitt, whose eight overs cost only 15 runs, and the durable Angus Fraser.
They fell well behind the rate before Carl Hooper cut loose with 45 off 54 balls to bring them level. He holed out at deep cover at exactly the wrong time, but he could hardly be expected to fly from the Caribbean straight into the swing of Duckworth-Lewis.