Match Report: Essex vs. Kent

Match Report: Essex vs. Kent

Kent’s Men’s First XI were at the Cloud County Ground in Chelmsford to take on Essex in the LV= Insurance County Championship.

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Day Four Report:

Essex made heavy weather of scoring the 30 runs required to beat Kent by seven wickets and secure their fourth successive LV= Insurance County Championship victory.

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It needed Paul Walter to keep his head when others around him were losing theirs and stroke the winning runs 23 balls into what turned into a more difficult run chase than necessary.

Essex attempted to make light work of reaching the target and were halfway there from the first over bowled by Hamid Qadri. But that was the prelude to the drama.

Dan Lawrence was first to go when he tried to hit Grant Stewart’s first ball out of the ground but only skied to mid-on.

Adam Rossington followed in the next over, lbw attempting to reverse sweep Qadri, and first-innings centurion Matt Critchley departed first ball to a caught-and-bowled by the offspinner, taken running back and over his head at mid-on.

Earlier in the morning, Essex needed eight overs before breaking the stubborn overnight partnership, but once Qadri departed to a smart catch at short square leg by Simon Harmer the innings collapsed in just six balls.

Sam Cook added a second of the morning three balls later when Matt Quinn played on and Joey Evison fell lbw to the first ball of Harmer’s 44th over of the innings. Harmer finished with four for 72 to take his season’s tally to 41 wickets and Cook had figures of four for 46.

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Kent head coach Matt Walker said: “It’s been déjà vu, I suppose. Days two and three I thought we showed some good character, our skill levels, a bit of fight, but yet again day one has cost us. I thought it was a pretty good cricket wicket, it looked a bit ugly at the start but I thought it played really well and produced a good game of cricket. It was good to bat on, that is why they wanted to bat first.

“It was a good toss to win. But just over 200 is well short of being competitive against a side like Essex. You know you’ve got to post a pretty significant score to be in the fight. So again we were well short of first-innings runs.

“It’s the same old, same old. I can’t really say any more to you than I’ve said in the past. It’s just that lack of a big partnership, a hundred in the bank. They showed us how to do it. They batted brilliantly, took their time, were patient. They got those partnerships, a hundred for Critchley and a 250 lead is difficult to deal with. Had we been a little closer to that score I think it would have been a very interesting game.

“But being bowled out inside 60 overs isn’t good enough, unfortunately. That has to change as we move forward. We’ve said in the dressing room for the past few weeks that we’ve got to be better in our first-innings batting.

“But there are some positives: how we batted yesterday, all day, that is what you want earlier on in the game. We showed we can do it, and in conditions when the ball was spinning more. I thought Finchy batted brilliantly and showed how to go about it and Joey Evison and Compo showed some resolve, some real concentration and decision-making.

“But in and around it there were a lot of low scores and we need to do something it and post 450 ourselves. It kills you when you start the game off with all the right intentions and the right energy and walk off on day one and know you’re pretty heavily behind on the day.

“It is when they walk across the white line that things have got to get better. They practise well enough, they’re very diligent in their prep, but they need to switch on when they cross the white line. We need to educate those players and keep banging the drum that this is hard work.”

Day Three Report:

Harry Finch batted for five hours in recording a valiant century for Kent that defied Essex from claiming a LV= Insurance County Championship victory inside three days.

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The 28-year-old’s 114 at a strike-rate of exactly 50 was his first sortie into three-figures since he compiled one two years ago against his former county Sussex, and the fifth of a mercurial first-class career.

Essex, looking for a fourth successive win to put pressure on Championship leaders Surrey, endured a frustrating day in the field as Finch led the way in partnerships of 93 and 72 with Ben Compton (39) and Joey Evison (56 not out) for the second and sixth wickets.

Simon Harmer whirled away for 38 overs, taking three wickets for 64 runs, but it was not enough to prevent Kent taking the match into a fourth day and ensuring Essex will have to bat again, Kent finished the day on 265-7, 14 runs ahead with three wickets in hand.

Essex had taken a wicket with the last ball of day two but had to wait until the 14th ball of the afternoon session on day three for the second. It needed a spectacular one-handed diving catch at leg gully by Harmer to end Ben Compton’s barnacle-like 122-ball innings after the Kent second wicket ate into Essex’s 251-run advantage on first innings.

Until that breakthrough moment, it looked as if Compton and Finch had bedded in for the long haul, scoring just a solitary leg-bye during one 19-ball sequence of dot balls. Compton regularly thrust out a long left leg to repel Harmer to the extent that the offspinner conceded just 16 runs from his first 11 overs of the day before briefly relinquishing his occupancy at the River End.

Finch, playing only his second Championship game of the season, was by far the more aggressive player in that second-wicket stand and reached his half-century from 105 balls. His second fifty was quicker, taking just 78 balls before raising his helmet to acknowledge the milestone.

Jack Leaning adopted the Compton mantle, batting for 42 balls before one kept low from Harmer and trapped him lbw for six from a 35-run stand.

The injured Jordan Cox emerged with Tawanda Muyeye as his runner. However, the helper was not required to move on Cox’s behalf as the wicketkeeper was scoreless for 16 deliveries and remained motionless on his crease when Sam Cook appealed successfully for lbw.

Essex might have broken the stubborn fifth-wicket resistence between Finch and Evison much earlier. Evison, on 10, received a double reprieve in the blink of an eye when dropped by wicketkeeper Adam Rossington, who then missed the potential stumping as Evison overbalanced. It was a miss that was to prove costly.

Essex tossed the new-ball to Harmer after just three overs and with his third ball he struck as Finch swept loosely to Paul Walter at short midwicket. Joe Denly, batting despite suffering back spasms, felt his side as he on-drove his first ball for four, but only lasted another six deliveries before he turned Harmer into Sir Alastair Cook’s hands at slip.

Evison nudged a single to reach a 96-ball fifty before Grant Stewart hit consecutive boundaries to take Kent within a run of making Essex bat again, But he then tried to take them into the black with another boundary, but only picked out long-off to give Critchley a wicket.

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Kent’s Harry Finch said: “We’re feeling pretty good. I thought we showed a lot of fight today. It was obviously disappointing to lose a couple of wickets in that last session, but overall that’s the sort of thing you’d ask for today: to come out and show some fight. We’ve got a lead now and hopefully we can get a bigger lead tomorrow morning.

“The pitch is tricky. It’s starting to spin a bit more consistently now. They’ve got an unbelievable spinner in Harmer. Plus it’s nipping around a little bit as well. There was always a ball there that kept you honest.

“I just wanted to keep it simple and play as straight as possible. My main thought was just to get off a pair. Luckily, I did that off the first ball of the day. I also got a nought in the first innings against Warwickshire last week, so I need to stop that trend. It makes the second innings a lot more nerve-racking.

“My celebration was quite muted because if I’m honest I was quite focused on the whole day and trying to get us into a lead if possible. Now if feels great, but I think I probably left a few runs out there which is disappointing. You never know on this pitch, if you get a 150-run lead, something could happen.

“Compo’s looked really good this game, back to his normal self. In the first innings he played brilliantly and today he looked as if he was going to be there right at the end. I think that’s the best catch I’ve ever seen [by Harmer to dismiss Compton], it was an incredible catch. And then Joey played brilliantly at the end there. It would have been nice if Joey and me had been there at the end but it wasn’t meant to be.

“We want to try and get as many as we can tomorrow. If we were five down there at the end it’s a really different feeling tomorrow, but we’ve still got three wickets left and if we can get 100-plus runs you just never know. Hopefully the pitch falls apart a little bit. I think for us we just have to show the same fight we showed today and who knows what happens.”

Day Two Report:

Matt Critchley’s second century of the season put Essex in the driving seat for a fourth successive LV+ Insurance County Championship victory on a strange day of substitutes and concussion repercussions at Chelmsford.

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The 26-year-old faced just 168 balls in rattling up 117 runs while building a first-innings lead for Essex of 251. Critchley entered at 158-3 and departed 64 overs later on 408-7 when he picked out long-leg to give Jack Leaning wicket.

In between Critchley shared a century stand with Simon Harmer – who hit a swashbuckling season’s best 83 not out from 92 balls – and other partnerships worth 71 and 49 with Paul Walter and Adam Rossington respectively. In the process the former Derbyshire all-rounder took his season’s tally in the Championship past 700 runs.

Sir Alastair Cook had laid the foundations with a 176-ball 87, but some lusty late six-hitting by Critchley, Harmer and Doug Bracewell gilded the lily as Essex declared on 458-8. Hamid Qadri bore the brunt with figures of three for 120, while the Indian international Arshdeep Singh returned best Championship analysis of three for 58.

Tawanda Muyeye departed to the last ball of the five overs left for Kent to see out when he went lbw pushing forward to Sam Cook for nought. Kent finished on 4-1.

But the real drama of the day came before play with the news that Nick Browne had retired hurt after feeling groggy overnight and failing an off-field concussion test. The left-handed opener was hit on the head by a short ball from Arshdeep Singh in the evening session but batted on for a further two and a half overs before being visibly ill after the penultimate delivery of the day. He then passed an on-field check and saw out the over.

Robin Das, who had originally stood in as the nominated substitute while Dan Lawrence made his way back from Old Trafford where he was stood down by England, then became Browne’s replacement.

Das lasted five balls before he became another entry in the scorebook that needed an asterisk: the concussion substitute was caught by the substitute wicketkeeper Harry Finch, standing in for Jordan Cox who further depleted Kent’s resources with a thigh injury.

Having put on 117 for the first wicket, thanks to the efforts of three men – but mainly Cook – Essex lost another almost immediately when Tom Westley was trapped lbw to give Arshdeep a second wicket.

Cook had looked in sparkling form the night before, stroking a dozen boundaries in his 64. But he batted for a further hour-and-a-half in the morning session, adding just 23 runs from 70 balls before looking a little disconsolate at being judged lbw to former Essex seamer Matt Quinn.

Lawrence, having made the journey down from Manchester, played an entertaining cameo of 25 that included an effortless six over midwicket before he attempted to sweep Hamid Qadri in a similar direction only to become a third lbw victim.

Critchley hammered Qadri over long-leg for the six that took Essex beyond Kent’s first-innings 207 with only four wickets down, though it had taken them 17 overs longer. However, Walter’s 90-ball 45 was ended by the third delivery with the new-ball as he played down the wrong line to Arshdeep.

Rossington twice straight-drove Joey Evison for fours in a bright partnership with Critchley before he was deceived by Qadri’s flight and turned to see his stumps disturbed.

Once Harmer had got off the mark to his 28th ball, he cut loose and needed just another 51 balls for his half-century, reached with a huge six off Qadri. But it was Critchley who caught the eye with some breathtaking, but orthodox hitting, and reach three-figures from 161 balls by pulling Quinn through midwicket for his 14th boundary that included two maximums.

Harmer, with five maximum, traded maximums with Doug Bracewell off the beleaguered Kent spinners before the New Zealander was stumped to prompt the declaration.

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Kent bowling coach Simon Cook said: “It’s probably not been our best day when you look at the scoreboard, but having said that the first two sessions we held them really, really well. We had plenty of opportunities, we had three or four clear chances which unfortunately we couldn’t take. We actually bowled two really good sessions up to tea.

“We knew they were going to start to come hard and unfortunately we couldn’t really hold on to those chances and they came to bite us in that last session when they put us under a bit of pressure. As a result we end up batting this evening rather than batting an hour into tomorrow.

“It’s one of those pitches that once you get in you can start to score. It’s a tough pitch to start with. Spin is obviously going to play a big part tomorrow, but once you get in it does allow you to free your arms. It’s a fast-scoring ground as we’ve seen in the T20s. it’s a frustrating day having controlled two sessions really well, created plenty of opportunities and we didn’t capitalise on that in the last session.

“Tomorrow is going to be trying to take as much time out of the game as possible by batting sensibly. I still think we’ve got to put pressure on, certainly the likes of Simon Harmer, who I think Grant Stewart showed in the first innings didn’t let him settle. It’s a different proposition when we’re putting pressure back on.

“It’s not just a case of trying to sit in and bat for a day, it’s still a case of tyring scoring runs with good intent and pass 250 runs and you never know what might happen. Whether the rain comes or not on Saturday, we obviously can’t count on the rain, but you never know going into day four if you can post something and the pitch deteriorates to that level we suddenly come into the game. But it’s certainly a big day tomorrow.

“Our injured men [Denly and Cox] will bat tomorrow, probably down the order as the rules dictate. Finchy will come in up the order. Then we’ll see when they’re available and they can come in. I seem to remember last year we had injuries at this time.

“But today we had [the long-term injured] Hogan, Gilchrist and DBD here and two of them ended up on the pitch [as substitutes] because of injuries. It’s starting to get to that part of the season where you’ve played a lot of cricket and these things happen. We’ve got an uphill battle here on in and we’ve got to focus on that rather than how stiff and sore we are.”

Day One Report:

Essex ended the first day in a commanding position of their LV= Insurance County Championship match against Kent.

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Sir Alastair Cook, still there at the close on 64, was joined in an unbeaten first-wicket stand of 106 by Nick Brown.

Earlier, Kent elected to bat on a green-tinged wicket under heavy grey clouds, but in the knowledge that batting last on a Chelmsford surface is always less than ideal.

Only a 58-run fourth-wicket partnership between Ben Compton, who recorded an 81-ball 47, and captain Jack Leaning interrupted a regular clatter of wickets with nagging seamers Sam Cook and Jamie Porter sharing six of them equally.

Tawanda Muyeye survived a decent chance to Matt Critchley at third slip before he was beaten for pace to present Sam Cook with the first of three wickets for 19 in 11 overs. Next ball Joe Denly played down the wrong line and was caught behind.

Harry Finch faced 15 deliveries without scoring when he set off for a single to gully where Paul Walter swooped and hit the single stump he could see.

Compton and Leaning settled in for a stand that needed 17 overs to put on fifty, and that despite Compton hitting Doug Bracewell for three successive boundaries, two through the covers, the other a flick off his legs.

However, to the last ball before lunch Compton attempted to dig out a fuller delivery from Simon Harmer and only succeeded in chipping the ball back to the bowler.

Leaning followed after the break when he got a thick edge to one from Cook that went away from him and wicketkeeper Adam Rossington took a diving catch to his right. Joey Evison went shouldering arms to one that came back late from Bracewell.

Grant Stewart smashed Harmer for two straight sixes in a brisk, seven-over stand of 43 with Jordan Cox before Porter found a peach of a ball to remove Cox.

Porter then set a short-ball honey-trap for Stewart who hooked straight to one of an army on the boundary, and two balls later Matt Quinn skied rashly to midwicket. Arshdeep Singh swept Critchley for a huge six and swiped at the next ball and was stumped.

When Essex replied in the evening session, Cook picked up the ante after a watchful start, though he was put down off Grant Stewart to a sharp chance in the gully.

Of the fifty partnership in 17 overs, Cook contributed 38 with Nick Browne playing second fiddle with a dozen; of the century partnership Browne had 27 and Cook 63. Cook passed fifty for the fifth time this season when he swept Hamid Qadri for his 10th boundary.

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Kent’s Ben Compton said: “You’re facing a difficult task here because you’re faced with multiple threats. It’s a very dry wicket, a used wicket, so you’re inclination is to bat first because Essex’s threat with the ball is Harmer, especially on a dry wicket so you try to go in first.

“But Essex are also excellent exponents with the new ball. That is the scenario you are faced with. It did a bit in the morning and they bowled nicely and took a few wickets. We had a few partnerships that didn’t quite perhaps take it as far as we would have liked. We just didn’t build any momentum for long enough.

“It was a tough day and at the end we were probably a bit inconsistent with the ball, as we were with our batting.
“I’m not sure if when Jack [Leaning] and I were out was the turning point, but we actually had a bit of momentum there and we just lost it at the wrong time. That kept them in the game constantly and wickets were falling fairly regularly after that.

“So that partnership was key and it was unfortunate that it ended when it did. We’ve just got to try and find a way of taking 10 wickets tomorrow and seeing where it takes us.

“I think we have to take a minute to reflect and try and understand what we did and what we can do better. There are three days of cricket and we must focus on that and not feel sorry for ourselves. We need to come tomorrow with a very clear plan of what we want to do. That is the only way to go about it. We’ve got to understand what we did, what we can do and then come back tomorrow. That’s four-day cricket. There’s not too much time to over-assess.”

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