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Denly scores century as Kent bat first at Northampton

Joe Denly scored his 18th first class century before four wickets after tea left honours even on day one of the Specsavers County Championship match.

Denly’s only innings of note in the opening three matches was a half-century against Glamorgan but here he looked assured, drove the ball smartly, and went through to three figures in 207 balls with 12 fours as Kent compiled 300 for seven.

Denly took advantage and having resumed 92 not out after tea, drove Panesar for four in the second over after the break and was soon celebrating a third Championship century in his second spell at Kent, having rejoined at the start of last season. He closed on 126 not out.

Panesar is also back at the county where his career began but his return was for the most of the day less noteworthy, wheeling away for 31 overs on a docile wicket, but he did claim two wickets.

Sam Northeast was caught and bowled on 49, that he took low down by his left boot and, having returned four overs from the close, had the left-handed Calum Haggett caught behind. It was a fair return, seven years on from his last appearance for Northants.

Northeast’s wicket was the first of several fairly tame dismissals that saw Kent not take full advantage of their strong position. At 202 for 2 they were in control of the day but after Northeast departed, no other partnership breached 30.

Sean Dickson tried to lift Rob Keogh – also making his seasonal return – down the ground, only for Alex Wakely to leap to his right from mid-off and claim a stunning one-handed catch. The celebration was surely learned from Shahid Afridi in his time at Wanatge Road last season.

Darren Stevens fell in the first over of the second new ball, clipping Kleinveldt straight to square leg. Adam Rouse fell in similar fashion looking to clip Kleinveldt through the leg side, only to get a looping leading edge to cover giving Wakely a much easier catch.

Northants should have been in a much better position earlier in the day. Panesar’s miss of Denly was the second of the three morning chances to go down.

Richard Levi twice spilled Daniel Bell-Drummond in the slips, first on 9 and then on 26. But Bell-Drummond couldn’t take full advantage as Northants finally did hold a catch after lunch with Rory Kleinveldt taking Bell-Drummond for 47 at first slip. But it followed a stand of 85 for the second wicket as Kent made a solid start.