Match Report: Northamptonshire vs. Kent

Match Report: Northamptonshire vs. Kent

Kent travelled to Northampton to face Northamptonshire in the LV= Insurance County Championship.

Day Four Report:

Northamptonshire & Kent played out a draw on the final day of their LV= Insurance County Championship match at Northampton.

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England opener Zak Crawley scored a second half-century of this Championship season, providing a much-needed boost ahead of the first Test against New Zealand.

While the intensity and pace of the bowling did not match what Crawley can expect to face at Lord’s next month, Crawley’s form will still be welcome news for the new England management.

With little riding on the day as the game drifted towards a draw, Crawley settled for some time in the middle, sharing a 149-run opening stand with Ben Compton. He struck the ball cleanly and crisply and accumulated seven boundaries and a six on his way to 84, It followed his first innings of 62 and marks a return to form for the opener after a string of low scores saw many questioning his England selection.

Finally the two sides shook hands on the draw with Kent at 170 for one.

Northamptonshire started the day needing 23 more runs to avoid the threat of the follow-on. Matt Quinn and Darren Stevens kept things tight early on during a tense opening 20 minutes which saw Tom Taylor fall, caught at second slip, without a run being added in five overs.

Gareth Berg opted for the attacking option, taking the Steelbacks to the brink of safety by smoting George Linde for six over long-on while Lewis McManus, batting with an injured finger, posted a hugely valuable undefeated fifty, his second since joining Northamptonshire on loan this season.

Ben Sanderson freed his arms, unfurling a string of crunching cover drives in a last wicket stand with McManus worth 54 before Daniel Bell-Drummond ended the fun by knocking back Sanderson’s off-stump just before Lunch.

After the interval, Crawley showed intent from the outset with a straight driven boundary off Sanderson. Northamptonshire’s opening bowlers though kept things tight and Crawley and Curran were content to play the ball on merit and leave well alone outside off.

Northamptonshire fluffed the chance of an early wicket when there was a mix-up between the batters, leaving Compton scrabbling to regain his ground, but both Luke Procter’s throw in from mid-on and sub keeper Harry Gouldstone’s shy at the stumps were both slightly wide.

Crawley got into the groove with two late cuts off Sanderson and Taylor and played some pleasant cover drives for three. He also displayed some aggression with a clubbed four over mid-off to Rob Keogh and a crunching extra cover drive off Emilio Gay. He used his feet to come down the track and hit Ben Curran’s slow bowling over long-on for six. One rare miss-hit came via an inside edge down to fine leg off Procter on 40 but he otherwise located the middle of the bat with ease and timed the ball sweetly.

At the other end Compton continued in the typically sedate fashion that has proved so productive for him this season before accelerating on his way to 68. He cut and drove handsomely, surviving one moment of danger when a thick outside edge off a ball from Keogh flew away for four.

After Tea, Northamptonshire turned to their part-time bowlers to see out the remaining overs. Crawley’s innings ended finally after 138 balls when he hit Curran straight to long-on.

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Kent and England opener Zak Crawley said: “I thought we played pretty well. The rain on the morning of day two kind of killed our chances of winning on a flat deck. But I thought we controlled the game and if we hadn’t lost half a day, maybe we could have had a crack at them today. But we didn’t have enough time.

“I’ve started to find a bit of rhythm, which is nice. I obviously haven’t scored the runs I wanted to, but I feel in good rhythm now. Obviously today, it was a bit easier than the first innings, but I still struck the ball nicely, so I feel good about my game.

“It’s always nice being picked for England and I can’t wait to get going with them. So, it fills me with a lot of energy, and maybe that’s why I got a couple of runs this week. I’m excited about Brendon McCullum coming in. I love watching him play and I’m sure I’m going to love working with him as a coach. So, I think he might suit me actually, quite a positive coach, so I look forward to seeing if that is the case. But he’s obviously a great character in the sport and I’m looking forward to it.

“If I time my form well and I score runs in Test cricket, that will mean an awful lot to me. That’s not to say I don’t want to score runs every time I go out to bat, and I’ve been disappointed that I haven’t been able to help Kent as much as I’d have wanted to this year. But everyone knows Test cricket is the pinnacle and if I can get a hundred in the next couple of weeks, that might put the last few weeks right.”

Day Three Report:

Northamptonshire are still fighting to save the follow-on despite two seventies for skipper Ricardo Vasconcelos and Luke Procter on Day Three of this LV= Insurance County Championship match at Wantage Road.

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Kent began the day hopeful of capitalising on a huge first innings 519 with the hosts on a precarious 21/2. Northamptonshire though rallied, losing only one wicket in each of the first two sessions.

The new ball brought two key scalps after Tea with Matt Quinn’s pace accounting for Rob Keogh who had made an attacking 45 and put on 96 with Procter. Hopes of capitalising on those breakthroughs faded though when T20 skipper Josh Cobb hit some lusty blows and keeper Lewis McManus was dropped on one by Jas Singh.

Despite Cobb falling shortly before Stumps, Northamptonshire are within 23 runs of saving the follow-on. It leaves Kent with a limited window tomorrow morning to press home their advantage and secure a first win of the season.

Northamptonshire negotiated an extended morning session for the loss of only nightwatchman Matt Kelly who was resolute in defence but aggressive in attack. He had extended his partnership with Vasconcelos to 61 when he was trapped in front by Quinn.

Vasconcelos, who rediscovered his touch with 156 against Warwickshire last weekend after an indifferent start to the season, continued where he left off at Edgbaston. An expansive waft outside off-stump on 26 was a rare early loss of concentration. Otherwise, he played a controlled innings, scoring all around the wicket, sweeping, driving and cutting fluently. He began the afternoon session in confident mood, hitting two fours off each of the first two overs. It was against the run of play therefore when he turned one from Darren Stevens straight to square leg.

Procter had been initially content to let Vasconcelos take the lead but after the captain’s wicket he too started to find the boundary. George Linde had got the ball to turn and bounce causing some problems initially, but Procter though started to use his feet to the spinners. He came down the track to Linde to dispatch him nonchalantly through midwicket for four before hitting the same bowler down the ground for six more to move to his half-century.

Keogh was equally harsh on the slow bowlers, hitting Linde straight for four under the bowler’s outstretched hands and a six.

Kent took the new ball after Tea and at first Keogh seemed to enjoy the extra pace on the ball, taking seven runs off two balls from Darren Stevens. However, a quicker delivery from Quinn took him by surprise and kept low, before hitting top of middle and off.

Procter, who looked set to add to his two centuries so far this summer, then met his downfall in a moment of indecision when he failed to withdraw his bat after deciding against playing a cut shot to Grant Stewart and was caught behind.

Cobb started aggressively in white ball mode, smashing Quinn through extra cover for a boundary to open his account and then taking two more off the same bowler’s next over. He put on a quickfire stand of 52 with McManus to bring up the third batting point before playing one big stroke too many, caught off the leading edge when he took on Singh. Tom Taylor then joined McManus in an unbroken stand worth 30 to see out the day.

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Kent bowling coach Simon Cook said:“The discipline throughout the whole of the day was brilliant with all of the bowlers and we got the rewards at the end of the day. You’ve just got to hope we can get a couple of quick ones tomorrow and we can enforce the follow-on if that’s possible.

“It will come down to the first half an hour. On these sorts of pitches, it’s tough. And hopefully that kind of nervousness around getting close to that total will mean that we can capitalise on that. It’s realistically, the only way we’ll probably be able to force a result.

“The difference from this game to some of the other games is we held our lengths for longer. When things weren’t really happening, we created a lot of opportunities with the new ball. There’s lots going past the outside edge, but once that new ball went away and it got a bit softer, our disciplines were much better either staying very straight or going into the channel and that brought the rewards. Once you can hold your lines and hold your lengths, it’s much easier to set fields and then suddenly those balls kind of go and get clipped to midwicket where we had a couple of catches and the game suddenly feels a little bit easier and you feel like you can control the game for bigger periods. It’s very nice to have 500 on the board first up as well. It’s the first time we’ve really led a game this year and it shows that when we can get on top, we’re a very strong side. Our challenge going forwards is can we wrestle games back into our favour when it hasn’t gone quite so well in that first innings.

“There are positive signs [from this game]. Jas Singh coming into this game bowled a couple of really, really good spells, controlled one side of the ground, forced some mistakes there and an important wicket of Josh Cobb at the end there. He’s a very dangerous player like he showed. He likes to play his shots and potentially could have taken the game right away from us even today. So, it gives us an opportunity tomorrow.”

Day Two Report:

Jack Leaning and Grant Stewart scored contrasting half-centuries as Kent piled on the runs on a rain-affected Day Two of their LV= Insurance County Championship clash with Northamptonshire.

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Captain Leaning ground his way to a 120-ball fifty to build on the fine work of Ben Compton, who ended with 140, and Zak Crawley and Daniel Bell-Drummond’s half-centuries.

On the other hand, Stewart was given a licence and used it to smash five sixes in 34 deliveries en route to the milestone – before he ended up on 61 – as Kent declared on 519 for nine.

All-rounder Stewart and Darren Stevens then made early in-roads by displacing Ben Curran and Emilio Gay as Northamptonshire ended the day on 21 for two – 498 runs behind.

Rain washed out the morning session to leave 66 overs for Kent to rack up a massive first innings total, having been put in on the first day. Compton continued almost unperturbed from his overnight 125, carefully adding two boundaries to take him to 100 fours for the season.

He departed for 140 when driving to gully, before Jordan Cox chopped Gareth Berg onto his own stumps and Ollie Robinson edged to first slip in a positive eight over spell for the hosts.

Leaning’s wicket was prized with complete protection, with only balls well away from his stumps dispatched to the boundary. It was certainly watchful but allowed the platform for the later chaos by helping to soften the ball.

His half-century, the 29th of his first-class career, was brought up in 120 deliveries with a delicious on drive on the cusp of Tea.

Stevens had already fallen cutting behind before Leaning chipped a leading edge back to Tom Taylor for 62. But that brought together the cunning rotation of George Linde and Stewart’s big-hitting.

Stewart has the build of a man perfect to hit a long ball – having struck four sixes in a run-a-ball 90 in his previous innings this year. If further proof was needed of this, his maximum off Rob Keogh which comfortably cleared the Lynn Wilson Indoor School. A conservative estimate measured the strike at 120 metres.

He followed that up with four more, altogether tamer sixes, as the tempo raised against a weary Northamptonshire attack. Linde, who had bizarrely been given out run out while backing up only to be recalled, added 38 with Stewart before skying to long on.

Matt Quinn shook off his genuine tailender tag to swat a six and four during a breath-taking 64-runs stand with Stewart in seven overs. He was dropped by Lewis McManus, who damaged his finger in the process, before Stewart exited when LBW to bring about the declaration.

Northamptonshire were given 13 overs to negotiate under the lights and lost Curran when he tamely diverted to mid-wicket. Gay earned a life against the wily Stevens with a tough caught and bowled chance but wasn’t so fortunate after he was struck on the pads. The hosts ended the day 21 for two.

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Kent batter and captain Jack Leaning: “I’m really happy. It is nice to be on the reverse side of it at the moment. Sticking 500 ourselves and having them a couple down overnight is very welcome.

“I felt scratchy to start with and got more fluent as I went through my innings. I would have liked a few more but from a team’s perspective we are in a great spot and chipped in.

“Grant has been working on his striking a lot with T20 coming up and he got an early work out with it today! Hopefully we see a lot more of that in the coming weeks. That hitting isn’t even surprising, we see it all the time in the nets so when he does it in the middle it isn’t a surprise anymore. He’s a big bloke and strong guy so he clears any boundary with ease.”

Day One Report:

Ben Compton continued his excellent start to life as a Kent cricketer, ending the day unbeaten on 125, as Kent rang up 286 for two on a batting-friendly Day One at Northampton.

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Zak Crawley also scored runs after receiving an England Test call-up, collecting his highest LV= Insurance County Championship score of the season.

He impressed with a controlled 62, although it was opening partner Compton who continued his annus mirabilis by creeping to his fourth century, and seventh score over 50, this season.

Ricardo Vasconcelos put Kent in on a wicket which looked like and proved to be good for batting. The first ball he faced was pulled forcefully to the boundary by Crawley.

The all-action opening slowed into a more sedate pace as both Crawley and Compton left and defended the ball with great skill, albeit with little movement assisting the bowlers. Crawley was particularly patient outside his off stump, with his rare cover drives checked rather than flailed to the rope.

Crawley’s half-century, his second of the campaign, came in 75 balls, with the opening duo putting on 93. Crawley edged Kelly behind when not committing to either a drive or defence just after Lunch to give Northamptonshire hope of a profitable afternoon. That did not transpire.

Compton has been one of county cricket’s finds of the season, having moved from Nottinghamshire. The 28-year-old’s numbers are incredible and are a testament to his technique and mentality.

In Division One he is: the leading runscorer (795), scored the most centuries (four), faced the most balls (1,960) and clocked up the most boundaries (98). He has now batted for 43 hours and 12 minutes, and has blocked out 1,534 dot balls – in fact, he has faced more dot balls than second-highest facer Sam Hain has seen total balls.

It took him 53 minutes to reach double figures at Wantage Road with his fifty coming in 131 deliveries. There were moments of lucidity, namely a couple of cover drives and a pull which he thought had taken him to three figures. It quickly emerged the scorers had miscounted and he was forced to celebrate his century a second time, this time after a sweep shot.

Daniel Bell-Drummond had replaced Crawley and simply kept the runs steadily amassing in the afternoon, as Northamptonshire dreamed of the second new ball. Bell-Drummond reached his third fifty of the season, but the first time couldn’t convert.

He was dropped on 77 by Emilio Gay at second slip, as the second new ball offered more movement than the first, but edged to first slip in the following over for 83. Kent suffered no further causalities as Jack Leaning and Compton remained resolute.

Compton ended the day unbeaten on 125, after a 176 run partnership with Daniel Bell-Drummond for the second wicket, as Kent posted up 286 for two on a batter-friendly opening day.

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Kent batter Ben Compton said: “I think Zak looked in great touch today. A couple of us struggled to get good starts and we had to work hard as they bowled tight. It was good to see him back firing.

“He is a pretty steady and impressive character. He isn’t someone who gets to high or low and understands the game can go up and down. It was nice to see him get rewarded especially as he has played nicely in tricky periods but not quite seen the fruits of that labour.

“I don’t get bored out there, I’m just trying to do a job for the team. I know I need to bat long and be the glue and get us a strong platform at the top.

“It was tricky and I struggled for rhythm until I got to about 50-something. I grafted but Deebz and I understood it wasn’t a pitch to feel a million dollars. It is a bit on the slow side so I had to work through it and it got better.”

Kent Spitfires face-off against Somerset in a repeat of the 2021 Vitality Blast Final under the lights at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence

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