Kent’s Heino Kuhn scored his maiden first-class hundred for Kent and the first century of the Bob Willis Trophy as the visitors put themselves in a strong position going into Day Two at Chelmsford.
Former South Africa Test batsman Kuhn hadn’t raised his bat on a ton since arriving at Canterbury in 2018, but scored an unbeaten 140 on a good batting wicket in Essex.
He and Ollie Robinson (78) added 150 for the fourth-wicket to put Kent to the road of recovery after Sam Cook and Jamie Porter had restricted the visitors to 23/3.
Robinson and Kuhn’s work was followed up by Darren Stevens and Grant Stewart adding 80 and 53 in partnership with the immovable Kuhn – Kent reaching close on 344/6.
Before play started, both sides observed a minute’s silence as a mark of respect for those affected by COVID-19, before bursting into applause to celebrate the work of the NHS and key workers during the pandemic.
Then after standing umpire Ben Debenham called play both squads to take a knee to promote racial equality.
Both Essex and Kent explained in a statement: “Kent and Essex players decided that before the match began, both sets of players would take a knee in solidarity with anti-racism movements in the UK and around the world and not for any political organisation. There is no room for racism in cricket, sport or the wider community.
“The players also held a minute’s silence before the game for COVID-19 victims and a minute’s applause in support the NHS and key workers.”
Daniel Bell-Drummond, standing in for England’s Sam Billings, had won the toss and elected to bat first with Chelmsford empty other than the two sides, officials, media and a mass of seagulls.
That decision appeared sensible with a fine batting deck on show, and would later prove to be correct, but 20 minutes into the season Bell-Drummond may have been questioning himself.
He was the first to depart, plumb lbw to Sam Cook, in the fourth over.
Jordan Cox and Jack Leaning, making his Kent debut following his winter move from Yorkshire, both departed within four balls.
Cox hung his bat down the legside and tickled Porter behind to a sprawling Adam Wheater, before Leaning pulled Cook to debutant Feroze Khushi at midwicket for a duck.
But Essex’s roll was halted as Robinson and Kuhn came together to counter-attack – and push the scoring rate comfortably over four an over.
Robinson was the more aggressive and that role was typified when he pumped Simon Harmer’s second delivery back over his head – the 2020 Wisden Cricketer of the Year had taken an eight-for against Kent on this ground last season.
As such the 21-year-old was the first to his half-century, the sixth of his fledgeling first-class career, brought up from his 68th delivery with a fine square drive.
Kuhn followed him to the milestone the other side of lunch off 85 balls, made up of nine fours.
After the partnership had reached exactly 150, Robinson departed for 78 when he feathered Porter behind.
That brought Stevens, in his 24th professional season, to the crease and he continued where his fallen teammate left off.
The fifth-wicket compiled 80 in a steady manner, albeit one which ground the Essex bowlers down.
That weariness was perfectly encapsulated in the farcical way Kuhn moved to a century.
Kuhn, on 98, flicked off his pads to fine leg for a simple single, but Porter’s fatigued 20-yard throw back to Wheater cannoned into the keeper’s pads and squirted for an additional run.
Stevens departed for 36 when he drilled Porter to Nick Browne at point, before Stewart came and went with an entertaining 37, which included a six off Harmer.
But it was Kuhn, on his 29th first-class appearance for the county, who had placed Kent in a commanding position with his array of reverse sweeps and daps to third man.
Credit: ECB Reporters’ Network