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Match Preview: Kent v Northants, 16th to 19th May

Tuesday 15th May 2012

Men’s First Team

Kent v Northamptonshire, LV= County Championship Division Two

St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury, 16th – 19th May 2012

Kent, unbeaten in all cricket in 2012, welcome Northamptonshire to the St Lawrence Ground for their latest LV= County Championship fixture; and with the weather forecast looking better, Rob Key’s side will be looking to maintain their division two promotion charge.

Awful recent weather has ensured a spate of draws across championship cricket, in recent weeks, but Kent look nicely poised in third place – just nine points behind front-runners Derbyshire. This week’s visitors lie in seventh, after claiming just one win from their opening five games, and are 17 points behind Kent. The hosts also have one win to go with four draws, but they will be looking for a repeat performance as that victory came against Northants at Wantage Road, earlier this season.

Kent dominated from the off after the home side opted to bat first. Seam bowlers Charlie Shreck, Matt Coles and Darren Stevens all took three wickets apiece as Northants were skittled out for 132 on day one, only Alex Wakely (33) shone for the batting side. After three wickets from England prospect Jack Brooks and two needless run-outs had left Kent teetering, on 158 for six, it was left to the stylish Michael Powell and the in-form Geraint Jones to produce the defining, match-winning partnership. The duo added 165 for the seventh wicket with summer signing Powell scoring a brilliant, unbeaten 128 as Jones chipped in with a half-century to haul the visitors up to 368.

The commanding lead of 236 proved to be too much for the home side to deal with as they were blown away by a six-wicket burst from Coles. The fast-bowler was too hot to handle as he scythed through the Northants line-up – helping Kent seal a crushing innings and 120 run victory.

Both teams come into this game off the back of rain-affected championship draws. Kent staged a remarkable comeback to hold Essex at Chelmsford. After a delayed start the visitors crumbled to nine for five in tough batting conditions. However, Jones again showed fine survival skills to take Kent to calmer waters; he and Stevens put on a remarkable 194 for the sixth wicket. Right-hander Stevens was at his awesome best scoring 119 from 170 balls – a knock that included 16 fours and one six – but the innings from Jones was equally important as he dug in for a season’s best of 88 to take Kent to 225. None of the other batsmen made it into double figures.

Seamer Mark Davies took out England opener Alastair Cook and Tom Westley in consecutive balls as Essex fell to 3-2 in reply. The danger was then averted by former-captain Mark Pettini. His 92 ensured a draw was the only possible outcome. Davies finished with four wickets, Shreck snared three and Ivan Thomas, on championship debut, claimed 2-29 as Essex were bowled out for 181. Key then made the most of the time left available in the game. He scored an unbeaten 40, out of 92-2, which puts him in good shape for the week ahead.

Northants, led by former Kent favourite Andrew Hall, managed slightly more action in their championship clash against Leicestershire at Grace Road, and were denied a thrilling win by a resolute last wicket stand.

Kyle Coetzer shone in the batting department, scoring a fine 120, as Northants declared on 352 for seven in their first innings. Two more contrived declarations meant Leicestershire were set 341 to win on the final day. Ramnaresh Sarwan (94) and Josh Cobb (59) looked to be setting up the victory charge before Lee Daggett (4-72) returned to wrestle the initiative back in Northants' favour as Leicestershire fell to 268-9. With just over nine overs to negotiate, the visitors looked favourite to claim a stunning win but Wayne White and the experienced Matthew Hoggard dug in to salvage the draw and leave Northants frustrated.

With the weather forecast looking vastly improved, a positive result is much more likely as Kent look to continue their fine form.

Team news

Both sides welcome back England Lions bowlers for this four-day clash. All-rounder Matt Coles looks is set to return to the Kent sides after taking six wickets against the West Indians last week. Northants will have Jack Brooks back available; the quick bowler impressed against the tourists – claiming six scalps himself.

Coles looks likely to replace the promising Ivan Thomas in the Kent line-up. Azhar Mahmood is still on IPL duty, with the Kings XI Punjab and Ashley Shaw is still sidelined after shin surgery.

Northants, along with Hall, will have another former Kent player in their ranks with Niall O’Brien keeping wicket.

Full team news to follow.

Photo: Sarah Ansell SarahCanterbury.com