Billings & Stevens tighten Kent’s grip

Wednesday 11th September 2019

Men’s First XI

County Championship Div 1

Billings & Stevens tighten Kent’s grip

A superb century from Kent skipper Sam Billings followed brilliant bowling from Darren Stevens, as Kent built a lead of 416 runs on Day Two of their Specsavers County Championship tie against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.

43-year-old Stevens followed up his first day score of 88 with a sublime spell of swing-bowling to accelerate Nottinghamshire’s relegation towards Division Two.

The right-armer claimed figures of five for 39 as the home side were bundled out for just 124 in their first innings, a deficit of 180.

He had picked up the wicket of Jake Libby on the first evening and had to wait until after lunch before adding to his tally. Steven Mullaney was pinned LBW to the second ball of the afternoon session, opening the floodgates for five wickets to fall in quick succession – four of them to Stevens.

Sam Billings shared top billing with his teammate. The Kent captain elected not to enforce the follow-on and made the most of another opportunity at the crease by scoring his first hundred of an injury-ravaged campaign.

Billings, who has missed four months of the season after shoulder surgery, was dismissed in the final over of the day for exactly 100.

Stumps were drawn with Kent on 236 for eight, an overall lead of 416.

Luke Fletcher, three for 40, and Ravi Ashwin, three for 71, were the pick of the Nottinghamshire bowlers.

The hosts began the day on their overnight score of 35 for two, with Fletcher at the crease as a nightwatchman alongside Ben Slater.

They were soon parted, with Harry Podmore making the early breakthrough, by having Slater caught behind by Ollie Robinson for 20.

The same bowler then scooped up a low caught and bowled offering from Ben Duckett, who made eight.

Fletcher’s lengthy vigil ended after 90 minutes at the crease, with Matt Milnes having him caught in the cordon for 17.

Mullaney, playing his first match for two months after knee surgery, had an uncomfortable return to action, being dropped on one, before needing lengthy treatment after a blow to the forearm.

He became Stevens’ 500th first-class victim, with the bowler then nipping out four for 13 in only 5.1 overs as Liam Patterson-White edged to slip, Tom Moores was struck on the pad and Paul Coughlin lofted to mid-on.

Coughlin’s wicket prompted Stevens to stand in the middle of the strip, arms aloft, celebrating the 24th five-for of his career.

Podmore played the chief supporting role, gathering Ashwin’s scalp to finish with three for 27.

Batting for a second time, Kent lost Daniel Bell-Drummond cheaply and Jordan Cox retired hurt after a blow to the arm but runs still came at a furious pace.

Crawley led the charge, hitting 13 fours and two mighty sixes off Ashwin and Patterson-White.

The 21-year old looked on course for his third championship hundred of the summer before chopping on, against Fletcher, who also had Heino Kuhn caught behind.

Stevens’ remarkable match took a dip as he was dismissed for nought by Ashwin, during an over that also saw Robinson dismissed in the same manner.

Ashwin gained two LBW decisions in quick succession, removing both Robinson and Stevens in the same over.

Billings had reached his 50 from only 58 balls and entered the final over of the day on 96. He drove Patterson-White for four to reach the landmark from 105 deliveries but then drilled the next ball straight back into the bowler’s hands.

Kent had earlier mathematically guaranteed themselves Division One safety with their haul of bowling points but the future looks bleak for Notts, who are now staring their ninth defeat of the season in the face.

Darren Stevens said: “It feels very good to get to 500. It’s not something I ever expected because I started my career as a batsman, so it’s pleasing.

“I was emotional really, the lads have been going on about it all week, so it was in the back of my mind. And I know only need three more now for 500 for Kent.

“The lads have been brilliant because they’ve been wanting me to get it from the first day.

“It did a little bit for me out there. It’s a bit up and down and there was a little bit of swing.

“There’s a lot of cracks out there, so we’ve got to keep smashing away at off stump because there’s enough going on.

“We need to do exactly what we did in the first innings. Walks (Head Coach Matt Walker) has just said the same thing, it’s about being patient and hitting our areas.”

Credit: ECB Reporters’ Network

Darren Stevens is in line to make his final appearance of his 15-year Kent career at home to Hampshire at the end of this month

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