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Blake battles as Kent are dismissed on day one

Alex Blake scored an unbeaten 50 as Kent were dismissed on day one before Kagiso Rabada marked his Championship debut with two wickets at Chelmsford.

The Kent left-hander came in with Kent wobbling at 48 for four and was stranded on 89 not out with Kent restricted to 207.

Rabada removed both openers with the South African sensation trapping England Test captain Alastair Cook LBW after earlier dismissing opening partner Nick Browne who top-edged to Sam Northeast at mid-on.

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Essex’s seam attack justified Ryan ten Doeschate’s decision to bowl on a green-top at Chelmsford, knocking over five Kent batsmen in the morning session.

Fabian Cowdrey opened the innings in place of Tom Latham and lasted just six overs before he was beaten by Graham Napier’s inswinger and his leg-stump went cartwheeling.

Neither Sean Dickson nor Joe Denly looked particularly comfortable on a green-tinged wicket against the new-ball attack of Jamie Porter and Napier.

Ravi Bopara eventually split the second-wicket pair with his third ball, a wide one that Denly groped to reach and edged to James Foster.

Four balls later Dickson followed, caught by Foster off Porter. In between, Sam Northeast was fortunate that the second ball he faced fell just short of the wicketkeeper.

The Kent captain departed to Matt Quinn’s fifth ball, wafting outside off-stump to another wide one and Foster had a third catch.

Darren Stevens and Alex Blake settled in and put on 26 for the fifth wicket before Stevens was trapped lbw by Bopara with the second ball of a new spell.

Essex had taken five Kent wickets for 88 before lunch and might have had a sixth straight after the break, but Nick Browne dropped Adam Ball at third slip.

It wasn’t too costly, though. Ball required treatment for a hand injury before he tried to fend off a lifter from Porter that popped up to Jaik Mickleburgh at gully.

Blake milked the gaps in an attacking field, reaching his half-century off 72 balls with his 10th four, pushing Ravi Bopara to long leg.

Callum Jackson, Kent’s debutant wicketkeeper, stuck with Blake as they put on fifty in 12 overs for the seventh wicket.

The partnership was worth 56 when Jackson tried to push Ryan ten Doeschate through the covers, missed and was trapped in front for 19. James Tredwell was beaten by Porter’s swing and lost his middle stump before Kagiso Rabada was bowled by Dan Lawrence.

Mitch Claydon was caught in the slips as Blake was left eleven short of three figures.

The left-hander said: “It was a little frustrating not to get to three figures, but I felt pretty good and to be not out. In hindsight if I was in that situation again I would probably try and take more of the strike.

“The only thing is we’ve got some good players who can hold a bat so I didn’t feel I needed to farm the batting too much. We’re under-par with 200 all out, and we need to bowl well to stay in the game.

“It really misbehaved all day and that was the worry because it was a used pitch – they used it against Northants. We had more of an eye on the back-end of the game and how it performs in the fourth innings. They made the most of it.

“By all accounts there was a bit of seam movement early on. The ball was still swinging when I went in – they bowled pretty well throughout – and they exploited those early conditions well in that first hour and we were behind the eight-ball.

“It was nice to remove the two openers. Cook speaks for himself: he is England captain and one of the best players in the world. Nick Browne has had a good season and had an England mention, too. But they bat all the way down and there’s plenty more work to do.

“If we can make some early in-roads tomorrow, who knows what will happen. In Rabada we have a fantastic bowler. I faced him in the nets first day he arrived and it is just a whole different level of cricket.

“You forget how young he is, he’s only 21, and he has that rhythm and action where he comes through nicely. It is good to have him on our side and hopefully tomorrow he can take a few more for us.”


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