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LV=CC: Stevens impresses as Kent dominate on day one

Sunday 23rd May 2010

By Sam Dixon

LV County Championship Division One
Durham v Kent
24 to 27 May 2010

Durham 121 all out, 34.5 overs
Stokes 27, Claydon 22*, Rushworth 16
Khan 5-43, Ntini 4-53, Coles 1-20

Kent first innings: 305-8, 59 overs
Stevens 99 not out, Key 40, Coles 34
Claydon 2-43, Rushworth 2-72, S Harmison 2-83

An extraordinary opening day at Riverside ended with Kent very much on top after a brutal, unbeaten 99 from Darren Stevens (pictured) capitalised on a fine morning’s work from the strike bowling duo of Amjad Khan and Makhaya Ntini.

The pacemen shared nine wickets as they ripped through Durham’s much coveted batting line-up to bundle them out for 121 as 18 wickets fell on the opening day. In reply, despite an afternoon collapse, which looked to have undermined their position of strength, Stevens hammered three big sixes in his 106 ball knock to keep Kent on top as they ended the day on 305 for eight – a lead of 184.

The carnage started after Durham’s openers had reached 24 without loss when Ntini, playing his final championship game for the county, dismissed danger man Michael Di Venuto for nine and Scott Borthwick for a third ball duck in the same over. Then, in the very next over, Khan got in the act trapping Kyle Coetzer in front for ten before collecting another prized scalp when Alex Blake caught Benkenstein for one. Durham lost four wickets in 21 balls for just three runs as they slumped to 27 for four.

The flurry of wickets continued as Khan, swinging the ball with great skill, continued to cause havoc as in another golden over he dismissed Gareth Breese for eight driving lazily to Joe Denly and then captain Phil Mustard fell three balls later, leg before for two, to leave the champions struggling on 50 for six.

A mini-revival was sparked by recent Kent nemesis Ben Stokes. The 18 year-old left-hander raced to 27 before Ntini, in the middle of a marathon spell, took his wicket with Blake taking another catch. The trend of wickets tumbling, in quick succession, then continued when Matt Coles captured Liam Plunkett, edging to the safe hands of Martin van Jaarsveld at slip on nine as Durham slid to a precarious 78-8 at lunch.

Durham’s tail showed some resistance after the interval to take them over the hundred mark with Mitch Claydon making an unbeaten 22 and Chris Rushworth was bowled by Ntini for 16. Khan completed his five-wicket haul as another LBW decision went his way; Steve Harmison dismissed for four as Durham were all out for 121. The pace pairing of Khan and Ntini caused the majority of the damage as they took 5-43 and 4-53 respectively to claim maximum bowling points for Rob Key’s side.

The Kent captain then set about trying to build a dominant lead as he and Denly got their first innings off to a flying start. The pair took apart some wayward new ball bowling, especially from Harmison, reaching 70 inside 11 overs before Key fell to Plunkett for 40. The England Lions paceman then struck again in his next over as Denly edged him to Di Venuto at slip on 24 as Kent slipped to 78-2.

Geraint Jones and van Jaarsveld continued the blistering run-rate, at well over five, to take Kent past Durham’s first innings effort, before Jones fell to Claydon for 21 to spark a collapse that has been all too familiar so far this season. Sam Northeast struck two fours before Claydon trapped him in front for eight and four then soon became five when van Jaarsveld became Harmison’s first scalp after looking well set on 36. Kent went into tea on 146-5, a lead of just 25.

Alex Blake didn’t last long into the evening session as Harmison struck again to dismiss the young all-rounder for two. Despite the glut of wickets Stevens, in tandem with Coles, again played aggressively to push Kent forward. The duo put on fifty together inside ten overs as the innings run-rate remained over five runs per-over as Kent motored past 200.

The former Leicestershire all-rounder and Coles, who continues to impress with the bat, then took Kent’s lead past 100 as the flurry of boundaries were maintained. Stevens went to his half-century with a flourish; hitting Rushworth for six as his milestone came off 71 balls. The knock included seven boundaries and the one maximum.

Rushworth hit back in his next over though as he clean bowled Coles for a crucial 34 – another mature knock from the youngster to end the 94 run partnership; three balls later Simon Cook edged Rushworth to Di Venuto on nought to leave Kent on 246 for eight. Stevens continued to light up the final few overs of the day as he hit Rushworth for two more sixes, as he and Khan raced to another rapid fifty stand off 46 balls. Stevens resumes one short of his ton, with Khan 12 not out at the other end.

Picture:Sarah Ansell