Blake form pushes for Kent inclusion
Blake form pushes for Kent inclusion

Alex Blake made a good case for inclusion in Kent’s side for the start of the Specsavers County Championship season by top-scoring in the county’s final warm-up game against Surrey.

The 28-year-old left-hander – more renowned for his devastating T20 hitting – compiled a patient 88 from 112 balls to stake his claim for a starting place in tomorrow’s four-day clash with Gloucestershire at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence (11am start).

Kent’s bowlers had fared poorly on day one of the friendly as Surrey compiled 341 for three. Spinners James Tredwell and Imran Qayyum took a wicket each, while Matt Hunn bowled Zafar Ansari before Surrey declared overnight allowing the hosts to bat on day two.

The home response started poorly with Daniel Bell-Drummond’s departure for 11, quickly followed by that of Joe Weatherley, the on-loan Hampshire batsman, who nicked to first slip off Jade Dernbach to fall for eight on his Kent debut.

With Sam Northeast resting a hamstring strain ahead of leading the side against Gloucestershire, Blake took his chance to bat in the top-order by hitting 15 fours in a characterful two-hour stay that helped Kent to a respectable 304 all out. Adam Rouse and Matt Coles contributing 39 apiece.

“It was nice to get a few runs and put my name in the hat, and I guess that’s all I can do,” said Blake.

“I’m totally aware that we’ll have a good strong side that’ll be raring to go on Friday, whether I’m involved in that we’ll have to wait and see. It would have been nice to get three figures, but I got run out by a great piece of work by Zafar.

“Surrey have a very strong squad which most people think should be challenging for the championship title in Division 1. Granted, it wasn’t the most spicy of wickets, but it’s always good to get runs against a decent Surrey attack and hopefully that will have done me some favours selection wise.”

Meanwhile, Kent have bolstered their bowling attack for tomorrow’s championship curtain-raiser by signing James Harris, the Middlesex paceman, on a short-term loan.

The 26-year-old Welshman watched the second day of the pre-season friendly with Surrey on Sunday before putting pen to paper.

The lively right-armer came through the ranks at Glamorgan before joining Middlesex in 2013. He has since appeared for England Lions and taken his first-class wicket haul to 367.

Harris, who bagged 16 wickets in seven red-ball appearances last term to help Middlesex to the County Championship title, said: “I am pleased to be starting the season with Kent and am grateful to the two counties for making it happen. I look forward to helping get the Kent season off to a positive start in the coming weeks.”

Commenting on the capture, Kent’s head coach Matt Walker said: “James has been one of the leading seam bowlers in county cricket in recent years. To have him on board with us for the start of the season is very exciting and he brings extra quality to our talented squad.”

Kent, who have not lost a championship game at their Canterbury headquarters since August 2015 and have not lost to Gloucestershire in their last four encounters.