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Kent v Essex: Stevens spell helps dismiss visitors for 260

Sunday 19th July 2015

Men’s First Team

A miserly stint of four for 37 by Kent all-rounder Darren Stevens ensured that the hosts enjoyed an opening day in the sun against Essex in Tunbridge Wells.

Stevens, who last week edged past the 300-wicket milestone in first-class cricket, sent down 12 maidens in his 23.5 overs spell to help dismiss the visitors soon after tea for 260 with wicketkeeper Sam Billings taking five catches behind the timbers.

In the 12 overs through to the close, Kent reached 68 without loss with Rob Key on 19 not out and Daniel Bell-Drummond unbeaten with 46 off only 34 balls as the hosts go into day two trailing by 192.

Despite heavy overnight rain in the Royal Spa Town play started on time with Essex batting first after winning the toss.

Kent welcomed back Rob Key and Mitch Claydon for Adam Ball and Matt Coles, while Essex named Ravi Patel, the on-loan Middlesex spinner.

Despite seemingly ideal batting conditions, Kent winkled out two batters in the opening hour as Jaik Mickleburgh (3) feathered one to the keeper and Nick Browne, after an attractive 30, played inside the line of a Calum Haggett off-cutter to go leg before.

Third-wicket partners Tom Westley and Ravi Bopara mounted a recovery operation either side of lunch but, after adding 110, top scorer Westley (77) aiming a back foot force against Hunn sent back a sharp return catch to the bowler.

Bopara (42) became Stevens’ first victim when he drove airily to snick to a diving Sam Northeast in the cordon then, just before tea, Essex dangerman Jesse Ryder (24) was superbly caught at extra cover by Joe Denly, diving full-length to his left and off the bowling of Mitch Claydon.

Essex skipper James Foster, who has a superb batting record against Kent, was first to go in the final session when he nibbled at a Stevens away-swinger to give Kent counterpart Billings another victim.

Having posted a 77-ball 50 with seven fours, Ryan ten Doeschate (54) then aimed a back-foot force against Stevens to edge to Billings, who was soon celebrating again when David Masters (5) top-edged a heave across the line against Haggett.

The same bowler then snaffled a sharp return one-handed catch by his right pocket to account for Graham Napier (11) leaving Stevens to finish the innings by having Jamie Porter pouched by a tumbling Billings.

Speaking at the close, Stevens said: “It was good at the Pavilion End with my wind at my back, at my age you need all the help you can, but at the Railway End it was that little bit tougher,” said the 39-year-old.

“It’s on the slow side, the pitch, but if you stand the seam up, bowl in the right areas and play the patience game you’ve a good chance of getting wickets.

“They were two down at lunch and with Ravi and Westley looking comfortable, but we kept it tight and backed ourselves to bowl as many dot balls as we could and then await the rewards.”

Click here for the scorecard