Match Report: Kent vs. Lancashire

Match Report: Kent vs. Lancashire

Kent’s final match of the 2023 season was an LV= Insurance County Championship clash with Lancashire at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence.

Day Four Report:

Kent are staying in Division One of the LV= Insurance County Championship, after a day of unmitigated, stomach-churning drama at Canterbury. They drew their game with Lancashire and then faced an almost unbearable 80-minute wait for news from Trent Bridge, where a Middlesex win would have been enough to relegate them.

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Lancashire’s Luke Wells made 117 and Keaton Jennings 74, but after collapsing from 194 for nought to 258 for seven, Josh Bohannon and Tom Bailey batted them to safety, making 68 not out and 78 respectively.

Jack Leaning and Aron Nijjar took three wickets apiece, but Kent’s failure to finish their opponents off left their supporters sweating on news from Nottingham. The visitors closed on 390 for eight, a lead of 223.

Fans and staff, at least those who could stand to watch, duly crowded round laptops and iphones. Kent captain Jack Leaning prowled the balcony, and Director of Cricket Paul Downton stood grinning with the sheer tension of it all.

Every run was cheered, every wicket felt like a depth charge and when Nottinghamshire hit the winning runs a roar that may well have been audible at Trent Bridge was emitted.

The consensus at the start of the day was the Kent would probably be ok, but the word “probably” ended up doing some very heavy lifting.

With seven bonus points in the bank Kent knew they’d be safe if they could match Middlesex’s result against Nottinghamshire, but for the first hour things looked grim, in more than one sense.

Play began under leaden skies, but the seamers made no impact.

Lancashire resumed on 126 without loss and had levelled the scores within 13 overs.

Wells carved Jack Leaning through point for the four that racked up his 24th first-class hundred but eventually fell when he edged the same bowler to Daniel Bell-Drummond at slip.

From 194 for nought, Lancashire lost five wickets for 32 runs.

Jennings went in almost identical fashion in Leaning’s next over and Steven Croft should have been out to the next ball but he was dropped by Tawanda Muyeye at short leg.

George Bell flashed at Aron Nijjar and was caught behind for one.

George Balderson drove Leaning to Compton at point and also went for one and a session that had started so demoralisingly ended on a high when Nijjar had Croft caught by Bell-Drummond, leaving Lancashire on 226 for five at lunch.

Matthew Hurst was then out for a duck in the third over after the resumption, skying Yuzvendra Chahal to Nathan Gilchrist at mid-off.

Just as news of Middlesex’s gutsy declaration filtered through, Chahal switched to the Pavilion End and duped Tom Hartley into a rash shot that was taken by Compton at mid-off for 18.

At that point the lead was under 100 and a Kent win at least looked possible but Bohannon and Bailey batted through till tea, by which time Lancashire were 344 for seven and there were only 27 overs left. Both batters were dropped, the former by Harry Finch off Joey Evison, the latter when he offered Chahal a return catch.

These lapses effectively finished off any lingering chance of a run chase and Kent’s fate was out of their hands. Bell-Drummond couldn’t cling on when Bohannon edged Leaning but by then almost everyone in ground was either watching the stream from Trent Bridge, nervously following the score on their phone or, in some cases, praying.

Bailey was caught by Gilchrist off Nijjar just after he’d passed his highest first-class score of 77 and Tawanda Muyeye came on to bowl for the first time this season and Ben Compton for the first time ever as both sides went through the motions before shaking hands and heading off to watch the nearest available stream.

It wasn’t an easy watch, but after nearly 90 minutes of soaring blood-pressure and heart palpitations deliverance came and a wave of relief engulfed the St. Lawrence.

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Kent’s Matthew Walker: “It wasn’t the greatest two hours of our lives, watching that unfold. It’s out of your control, it’s completely out of your hands and it’s the worst part of the job. There’s nothing you can do about it apart from sit and watch and keep your fingers crossed.

“We gave it a real good go this week. We thought we’d have to win this game, or we thought we’d have to win one of the last three games and as it turned out we haven’t had to win any of them, but we’ve had two really good performances which have given us enough points to get our noses ahead going into this week.

“Fair play to Middlesex. They deserve a lot of credit and they gave it a real good go. They may have deserved a bit better but I was glad of that back end resistance from Notts. We saw it against us a couple of weeks ago from Brett Hutton and it was painful at the time.

“Relief is the overwhelming emotion I suppose. It’s hard to be too jubilant. We’ve just hung on and stayed up, but from where we were a few weeks ago, that was the job to do and we’ve done it. We can go away now, have some time off, and reflect on the season as we usually do. We’ve got Division One Cricket next year.

“You do everything you can and that was our message this week. You try and keep eyes of that game (Middx v Notts). I know it’s hard but the focus was totally on our game. We knew just leading into tea that it was going to be really difficult to win this game. That partnership just became too many really and we certainly didn’t want to lose the game if we’d had a horrible little run chase like we did a few weeks ago when we nearly blew it (against Notts). And then all you can do is just hope!

“Of course everyone was very nervous in the dressing room. At tea Notts looked like they were sailing with nine wickets left and needed just over 100 but you just know that last day drama happened last year up at Edgbaston and you never know until that last ball is bowled. It doesn’t matter how they did it, they managed to get it across the line and we’ve very thankful for that.”

Kent’s Jack Leaning said: “I couldn’t really bring myself to watch it. (The Middlesex game). I hate the unknown, I can deal with the good and the bad but that bit in between is pretty shambolic. I hate it!

“Luckily Notts did us a favour, but I thought we did ourselves a few favours over those last three games to picky up the points that we needed and ultimately we kept ourselves up. It’s not just Notts today, it’s us over the course of the season.

“Yes we don’t want to be fighting at the bottom of the table, but we’re in Division One and we’ve got the opportunity to start afresh and push ourselves up the table.”

(Was it agony for the players?) “Yes, but that what makes sport so special. If it was cut and dry and the best teams always won and the worst teams always lost no one would ever watch it. Championship cricket has really showed that this week. There’s been results you wouldn’t expect and results that have caused a great deal of drama in various different dressing rooms around the country.

“As a team we pride ourselves in sticking together in the tough times and hopefully enjoy the good times when they come. We’ve won a couple of bits of silverware in the last two years. We didn’t quite achieve our goals in white ball cricket this year but we stayed up and achieved our goal in red ball cricket this year. Hopefully next year will be a little bit different.

“If anyone knows why we suddenly get the results in September, I will happily sit down and have a coffee with them. Hopefully I’ll get the job full time for next year. I’ve made it quite clear to take it on if that’s what the club wants, but if it is someone else I’ll be the first in line to help the new man take things forward.”

Day Three Report:

Kent reached the required number of batting bonus points against Lancashire to make it a purely results-based equation to stay in Division One of the LV= Insurance County Championship.

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Joe Denly’s 135 had helped Kent to 494, a first-innings lead of 167, but any hopes of a quick three-day victory faded when Luke Wells and Keaton Jennings both made half-centuries in an unbroken opening partnership, reaching 69 ad 52 not out respectively before bad light halted play at the Spitfire Ground.

Although Kent hauled in seven bonus points, they need to at least match Middlesex’s result against Nottinghamshire or they will be relegated and with that game also looking too close to call, a gut-wrenching final day is in the offing.

Kent had begun day three in a significantly happier place than they’d been 24 hours earlier, on 345 for four on day two in reply to Lancashire’s first innings score of 327 and with Denly unbeaten on 105.

The first cheer of the morning came when Tom Bailey bowled a no ball, taking Kent to 350 and securing the sixth bonus point, which meant that as long as Kent did no worse than Middlesex they’d stay in Division One.

The partnership between Denly and Harry Finch had reached exactly 150 when the latter was bowled for 44 by George Balderson.

Lancashire’s attack was already weakened by the absence of Jack Blatherwick, who’d bowled two beamers in an over on day two and their discipline continued to waver.

Tom Hartley, in for Will Williams, bowled the third beamer of the innings, a head-high slow delivery that Denly swatted for six to take Kent past 400. In the next over, the 108th, Balderson bowled a no ball, bringing up a half-century of extras.

Denly finally went when he was lbw to Balderson and Hartley bowled Joey Evison for 12, exposing the tail.

Balderson sent Nathan Gilchrist’s middle-stump cartwheeling for a ten-ball duck, but Aron Nijjar and Matt Quinn took Kent to 447 for eight at lunch.

Quinn was on 22 when he was caught off a Bailey no ball, but he was caught behind two deliveries later without adding to his score.

Nijjar, however, hit the next ball for six and had made 42 before he holed out to Bailey and was caught by Blatherwick, ending the innings.

At that point the most optimistic scenario was a victory inside three days, but Lancashire’s openers Wells and Jennings had raced to 55 without loss when an early tea was taken due to a brief shower and by then the mood around the Spitfire Ground was beginning to darken again.

Kent supporters have already seen this film too many times this season: hefty first innings leads were squandered against Surrey and Notts and the openers eroded the deficit offering barely a chance.

When Yuzvendra Chahal, did find Jennings’ edge he was dropped by Leaning when he was on 42 and bad light stopped play with 11 overs remaining, at precisely the moment the news came through that Middlesex had bowled out Nottinghamshire for a first innings deficit of 18.

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Kent’s Nathan Gilchrist said: “I think everyone’s pretty positive. I think we’ve played some really good cricket over the last three days. We’ve shown what we can do and what maybe has been missing for most of the season and there’s been some really good performances from a few of the boys over the last few days.

“We’re looking forward to tomorrow and obviously we’re not sure what the result is going to be but we’ll push forward for a win as much as we can.

“I don’t think many of the boys have been looking too much at the other scores. We said at the beginning of the game that we just want to do what we can do and control what we can control. With the bonus points that we’ve got in this game, I’m not sure what the maths is but I think everyone is pretty optimistic that if we get a draw we should be ok.

“I think we bowled pretty well. It’s a tough wicket to bowl on now, it’s pretty flat and there’s not a huge amount in there for the seamers so it’s just putting the ball in the right area for as long as we can. For the spinners here was a bit more in there, especially with the rough but we bowled pretty well as a unit and kept the scoring low for most of the innings so hopefully we can continue that tomorrow.”

Day Two Report:

A throwback century from Joe Denly helped Kent to 345 for four and a lead on day two of their LV= Insurance County Championship match with Lancashire at Canterbury.

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Replying to the visitors’ 327, Ben Compton, who was nominated to drop out had Zak Crawley been fit after England duty, anchored Kent’s innings with a typically obdurate 95. Denly then played a more flamboyant 105 not out, from 149 balls with 11 fours and a six, to record his first red-ball century of the season as Kent closed with two potentially crucial batting points and a lead of 18.

The hosts began the match a single point ahead of Middlesex in the Division One table and will be relegated if the sides finish level on points, having fewer wins.

It was a difficult day for Lancashire, with Jack Blatherwick being removed from the attack after bowling two beamers in an over.

Supporters with memories of the bygone age when England players were bundled into taxis as soon as their game was over and dispatched to the furthest flung corners of the county circuit were disappointed to learn that neither Zak Crawley nor Tom Hartley would be available until day three, following yesterday’s wash-out in Bristol.

Compton opened alongside Tawanda Muyeye but after enduring a torrid opening hour as the ball zipped around under grey St. Lawrence skies, the latter was just starting to look comfortable when he got out for 46.

George Balderson replaced Tom Bailey at the Pavilion End, his fourth delivery found Muyeye’s edge and Keaton Jennings took a brilliant one-handed catch low to his right.

Jennings then took a far easier catch to remove Daniel Bell-Drummond for three after Jack Morley found the shoulder of his bat, leaving Kent on 91 for two at lunch.

Morley then bowled Jack Leaning for 34, but Compton continued to grind his way on, reaching 50 from 146 balls.

Midway through the afternoon session Kent announced that as Crawley was now reported unwell he wouldn’t be available at all, although by this point the news seemed significantly less of a blow to Kent than it might have done had it been announced a few hours earlier. They moved to 231 for three at tea and Blatherwick then bowled an over he’s unlikely to forget.

It started well enough as he got Compton out with the first ball, caught off an attempted pull at backward point by Balderson. Harry Finch scrambled a single to get off the mark from the second and the hosts secured a first batting bonus point off the third when a Blatherwick delivery reared up and went for four byes off Denly’s helmet.

Play was immediately suspended for bad light and after a 25-minute delay Blatherwick resumed with a beamer. Denly then hooked him for four to bring up his 50 and when Blatherwick subsequently bowled a second beamer he was taken out of the attack.

He immediately apologised and Denly patted him on the side as he passed him, but it was left to Luke Wells to finish the over.

Denly swept Morley to secure a second batting point and brought up his 31st first-class hundred when he hit Bailey through cover for three. Finch took a single from Balderson to give Kent the lead and an increasingly demoralised bowling attack had conceded 38 extras by the time play was abandoned for bad light with seven overs remaining.

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Kent’s Joe Denly said: “We spoke at he beginning of the day about trying to get into a commanding position come the end of play today and on a pretty good surface, if you get in on that wicket it’s good value, so the boys are really pleased with the position we’re in and hopefully with a bit more hard work in the morning tomorrow we can kick on.

“Both of them (the openers) set a really good platform for us to come in and play with a bit of freedom. They saw off that new ball and as we know the new ball’s always tricky. One of the hardest jobs is opening the batting and Tawanda looked a million dollars didn’t he?

“He’s an exciting prospect that’s for sure and Compo, as always is rock solid at the top. More often than not he gets us off to a really good start so I’m sure he’s disappointed not to get that extra five runs but he’s put us in a strong position.

“It speaks volumes about his character with potentially Zak coming back and only getting one crack at it but he played beautifully, showed intent throughout the day and it’s the best of Ben Compton we’ve seen.

“It’s been nice. I’ve found some really good rhythm. There’s no doubt runs have been lacking so it’s been nice in the last couple of weeks to contribute to some good performances, against Somerset getting away there with the draw and hopefully putting us in a really commanding position in this game.”

Day One Report:

Kent took ten wickets on Day One in the LV= Insurance County Championship at Canterbury, as Lancashire recovered from 18 for three and 240 for eight to reach 327 all out at stumps.

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Josh Bohannon scored 113 and put on a crucial 121 for the fifth wicket with George Balderson, who made 54. Matthew Hurst finished unbeaten on 76.

Kent took the full compliment of bowling bonus points, with Matt Quinn and Aron Nijjar both claiming three wickets.

An all-seam attack had struggled to make any impact in the draw with Somerset, but the hosts were boosted by the return of Quinn and Nathan Gilchrist from injury and both made an early impact.

Both openers went cheaply. Quinn struck in the fourth over, when Keaton Jennings was caught by a sprinting Ben Compton at leg gully for four.

Nathan Gilchrist then had Luke Wells caught behind for five and home hopes surged when keeper Harry Finch, selected ahead of club captain Sam Billings, took a superb diving catch when Steven Croft edged Quinn down the leg side, handing Kent an early bowling point.

Their optimism was ephemeral. Lancashire responded with stand of 78 between Bohannon and

George Bell, who looked fluent for 40 before Quinn had him caught behind.

Bohannon reached 50 when he took two from Aron Nijjar in the final over before lunch, at which point it was 106 for four.

Lancashire seized the momentum in the afternoon. When Bohannon hit Joey Evison for four through cow corner it brought up his tenth first-class century. By the time he was stumped trying to charge Jack Leaning, Lancs were 217 for five and George Balderson was set, taking a single from Leaning to bring up his half-century.

It was 231 for five at Tea, but Balderson failed to add to his score, caught at short leg by Compton off Yuzvendra Chahal and handing Kent a second bowling bonus point.

Tom Bailey made a seven-ball duck, hitting Aron Nijjar straight to Gilchrist at extra cover but Hurst was on seven when he edged Nijjar to first slip and he was dropped by Leaning.

Nijjar didn’t have to wait long for his second wicket as Jack Blatherwick tried to slog him and was caught by a back-pedalling Daniel Bell-Drummond at long off, but Hurst then led a counter-attack that exasperated the hosts.

He hit Chahal for six and had moved to 44 by the time he skied Quinn and Evison couldn’t quite haul him in. A scampered single from Quinn took him to 50 and with Will Williams he saw off the new ball, steering Lancs past the 300 mark.

Nijjar secured a third bonus point when he had Williams lbw for 11 and the day at least ended on a high for Kent when, with the very last ball, Chahal bowled Jack Morley for two. The other chink of hope for home fans was the early finish of the ODI in Bristol, meaning Crawley should at least get a reasonable night’s sleep if he’s asked to open tomorrow.

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Kent’s Jack Leaning said: “I think in the context of the day we’re pretty happy with that. We were going to have a bat this morning as well, it looked a pretty good wicket. The boys set the tone nicely with the ball this morning but naturally good players like Bohannon are going to score runs if they play well.

“We stuck at it throughout the day and they had a couple of partnerships, but to get them out for 327 and get the last wicket at the end of the day was a nice effort. I think it was a good wicket and it was starting to deteriorate and take a little bit of spin, so hopefully we can exploit that when we come to bowl again in the second innings.

“I thought Yuzi bowled really, really well. You saw today the skill level and the class that he’s got, to vary his pace, whether he’s bowling wrong’uns and sliders he’s just a joy to watch from slip and he was really well accompanied by Nijjar at the other end.

(Does he have to keep morale up during long partnerships?) “A little bit. I’d like to think that the state of the season and the game itself would be enough that people would want to get up and about and do what they can to win the game but naturally there’s times when the game goes a little bit dead and meanders along, so it’s my job to keep everyone going.

(On Harry Finch) “He’s gone from strength to strength this year. If you saw him keep today and then said that he’s only been keeping properly for 12 months you’d laugh. It’s ridiculous. He’s put in a hell of a lot of hard work here with his keeping and he looks like somebody who is going to go from strength to strength with the confidence he gains. If someone like Foakesey had taken the catch he took today it would have been all over social media and people would have been waxing lyrical so I hope he gets the same recognition tonight and can sit there and admire his work.”

International T20 cricket is back at The Spitfire Ground after 12 years next Summer!

International T20 cricket will return to Canterbury on Thursday 11 July 2024 when The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence hosts the 3rd match in England’s IT20 series against New Zealand.

It is only the second time that Canterbury has hosted a Women’s International T20 match in its long history, and will be another boost for the continued growth of women’s cricket in Kent.

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