Matt Henry’s devastating bowling spearheaded Kent to a 102-run triumph against Northamptonshire and kept captain Sam Billings’ side firmly in the Specsavers County Championship Division Two promotion race.
Henry’s latest haul of 4 for 72 gave the New Zealand fast bowler match figures of 11 for 114 as Northants, who began the final day at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, on 56 for 3 needing another 264 runs for a win of their own, were bowled out for 217.
Adam Rossington, who top-scored with an 56, held up Kent’s bowlers for almost three hours and featured in a seventh wicket stand of 48 with Nathan Buck, who battled to 17 before gloving a Henry short ball to wicketkeeper keeper Billings shortly after lunch.
Brett Hutton also offered lower order resistance, with 21, but the end came quickly once Rossington was eighth out, pulling Harry Podmore to Heino Kuhn, who was stationed as one of two short mid wickets.
Richard Gleeson was then caught behind off Joe Denly’s leg breaks to go for 3 and Hutton was last out – stumped off Denly, who finished with 2 for 7. Podmore took 2 for 32, while Henry now has 61 championship wickets from eight matches this season at an outstanding average of 14.85 runs apiece.
Kent were made to work hard for their eighth win of the championship campaign, however, with the Canterbury pitch flattening out noticeably from the testing surface on which 18 wickets had fallen on day one.
Richard Levi, Alex Wakely and Saif Zaib all fell in a hard-fought morning session in which Kent used six bowlers, and it was no surprise when Henry made the day’s initial breakthrough.
Henry, who took a career-best 7 for 42 in the Northants first innings of 105, opened up from the Nackington Road End and struck in his second over – the fourth of the day – when Levi was beaten by a ball which kept a little low and was leg-before for 14.
Earlier in the over, Wakely had driven successive balls from Henry through mid off and mid on for eye-catching fours, and the Northants captain had batted well for 38 from 74 balls when he unluckily edged on to his pad, attempting to force the last ball of Ivan Thomas’s first over through mid-wicket, and saw it lob up for the bowler to catch the rebound in his follow-through.
That was 105 for 5, and Northants lost their sixth wicket when Zaib, who had punched Henry through the covers off the back foot for a lovely four, was caught for 9 when he clipped Podmore’s second ball to Henry at mid-wicket.
Then came the Rossington-Buck partnership, however, and Kent were forced to regroup at lunch before Henry – who else? – broke the stand to ensure Billings’ team would bank 19 points from the win and move back into second place in the Division Two table behind leaders Warwickshire and five points in front of Sussex, who are third.