Darren Stevens took his sixth five-wicket haul of the summer as Leicestershire’s tail wagged on the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship clash at The Spitfire Ground.
The 41-year-old all-rounder passed 40 Championship wickets this season and 400 for his first-class career as he grabbed 7/59 as the visitors reached 326/9 at stumps.
The visitors lost three wickets before lunch and five more after before tail-end resistance frustrated the hosts after tea with Lewis Hill (77*) and Callum Parkinson (59*) setting a record last-wicket stand against Kent of 98*.
A 14-ball purple patch of three for five by veteran all-rounder Darren Stevens sent Leicestershire’s top three packing.
His first breakthrough came in the 10th over of the day when he nipped one through the defensive push of left-hander Harry Dearden (11) to win the lbw appeal.
Stevens struck again four overs later in almost identical fashion when Michael Carberry (18), the former Kent opener and Stevens’ 400th first-class wicket.
Four balls later Colin Ackerman (6), the tall-right-hander, pushed outside the line of a leg-stump away-swinger to also depart leg before and leave his side in trouble on 36 for three.
Stevens struck for a fourth time in his second over after lunch when Mark Cosgrove, having smashed nine fours in a counter-attacking 40, flicked airily in the region of mid-wicket only to hole out to long-on via a leading edge.
He secured his five-wicket haul with a ball that nipped one back off the seam and through the gate of Ned Eckersley’s drive to hit the top of off stump, the 18th of his prolific career.
Former Kent all-rounder Neil Dexter joined forces with Lewis Hill to add 67 inside 25 overs for the sixth wicket.
But, after a short rest, Stevens returned to end Dexter’s 86-ball stay for 40 with a beauty that pitched on middle and clipped the top of off.
Stevens bagged seven for the second time in his career when Ben Raine jabbed down late on an in-swinger and edged low to Coles at second slip.
Any hope of a Stevens clean sweep ended just before tea when Matt Pillans swung lustily and edged one from Adam Milne through to the keeper Sam Billings.
After tea, Leicestershire’s ninth-wicket partners Hill and Clint McKay opted to throw the kitchen sink at anything pitched up to them, a ploy that seemingly bemused the Kent attack.
Stevens’ figures took a relative battering as the pair went aerial, clubbing fours to all parts in taking their side past 200 for a first batting bonus point. The little and large pairing added 54 before McKay, on 32, sliced a lofted drive against Qayyum into the hands of Milne at deep extra cover.
Hill’s impish approach took him to a deserved 129-ball half-century and Foxes’ last man Callum Parkinson joined in the counter-attack by clubbing one from Stevens into the top tier of the Frank Woolley stand to secure a third batting bonus point as the home attack ran out of steam.
Parkinson reached his maiden first-class 50 from 48 balls, with four fours and a six as he and Hill beat Leicestershire’s previous best 10th wicket stand against Kent of 96, set by George Geary and Alex Skelding at the Aylestone Road Ground, Leicester, in 1925.
Stevens, who finished with seven for 59, said it had been a frustrating final session. “It was a day of two halves and we’re very frustrated. There wasn’t much pace in it for our quicker lads and at 170-odd for eight we were in a dominant position, but we let ourselves down a little bit after that.
“The ball got softer and the boys got a bit weary, this being the first day back after five weeks of T20. That took its toll a little bit but adapting day-to-day is all part and parcel of playing first-class cricket.”