Denly stars as Kent take control
Denly stars as Kent take control

Joe Denly’s 23rd first-class century led a spirited Kent fightback on the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship match with Division 2 rivals Glamorgan in Canterbury.

The hosts had lost four wickets and Denly had yet to get off the mark after Glamorgan’s pace attack made a fiery start on a well-grassed pitch, but 31-year-old Denly dug in to post his fourth championship ton of the summer and lead the hosts to relative riches at 302 all out.

In the 13 overs through to stumps, Glamorgan reached 18 for one to trail by 284 runs going into day two. The visitors, who named seven graduates from the junior Welsh ranks in their starting XI, lost Nick Selman in the third over to a catch at the wicket off Adam Milne, but played with spirit thereafter in fast fading light.

Batting first when Glamorgan opted to bowl after an uncontested toss, Kent were indebted to No3 Denly for contributing over half the home total and for salvaging the innings from the depths of 39 for four.

Kent lost both openers within the first 37 deliveries of the match. Sean Dickson, prodding outside off against Michael Hogan, edged low to David Lloyd at slip, then, to the very next delivery from Lucas Carey, Daniel Bell-Drummond aimed an expansive drive without moving his feet and feathered one though to the gloves of Chris Cooke.

The Kentish malaise worsened when skipper Sam Northeast chased a wide, floating away-swinger from Carey to be caught at slip and soon after, Sam Billings’ 14-ball stay ended for 18. Pushing on the back foot to a Rory Smith away-swinger that started on a fourth-stump line and kept swinging, Billings lamely followed to edge to the keeper. The right-hander also stood his ground, forcing umpire Nigel Cowley, officiating in his final game, to raise the trigger finger.

With Denly becalmed on a single for 45 minutes, the hosts finally raised their 50 in the 19th over, but the interval only served to break Zak Crawley’s concentration and his useful contribution ended in the second over after the resumption. Aiming a leg-side flick against Hogan, he found a leading edge to balloon a simple catch to mid-off.

Hogan struck again soon after, snaring Darren Stevens lbw with an off-cutter that darted back up the slope while Stevens shouldered arms.

Denly and Callum Haggett joined forces to add a useful 87 until Haggett fell just before tea, departing lbw after working across the line of a Lloyd in-swinger.

Denly found another willing ally in Adam Milne who played some eye-catching drives in moving to 33 for his part in an eighth-wicket stand of 57. The Kiwi ought to have gone for 28 when he skied to deep square leg, only to be downed by Connor Brown. The blunder mattered little, however, as Milne soon nicked off to slip against Craig Meschede to spark a secondary collapse.

Denly posted his 10,000th run in first-class cricket and moved past 150 from 200 balls but, after 300 minutes at the crease, he danced down the pitch to Lloyd aiming an expansive lofted shot only to hear the ‘death rattle’ behind him.

Kent debutant Grant Stewart got off the mark with a rasping pulled boundary against Smith but, with the new ball available, Hogan returned to have last man Imran Qayyum caught at second slip to end Kent’s innings just after 5pm.

Hogan finished with four for 44, but Kent also had reason to be pleased with a comeback that ultimately reaped three batting bonus points.

Kent century-maker Joe Denly said: “Losing those first four wickets early on wasn’t ideal, but I managed to get a partnership going with Zak Crawley that took us through to lunch. He played beautifully I thought and was unlucky to get out how he did, but that set the platform up for us. Their bowlers got a bit tired in that second session but for most of the day it was about grafting.

“We were very pleased to get to 300 because there’s probably a bit more grass on the wicket than we’re used to here. They made good use of that and the ball jagged about quite a bit so it was a matter of trying to score however you could.

“I think we’re in a very good position now if we can put the ball in good areas more often than not and challenge the top of off stump, then I’ll think we’ll create chances. Hopefully we can hang on to our catches too.”

David Lloyd, who took catches and wickets on the opening day for Glamorgan, said: “It’s nice to be back in the fold. We started off really well but after lunch the wicket seemed to flatten a little.

“It was unfortunate to lose Nick early in our reply tonight, but Connor and Jack got their heads down and got us though that tough period before stumps. Hopefully we can have a good start tomorrow, but we need to get our heads down. It’s all about seeing off the new ball in the morning and getting though the first hour. There’s still a bit of life in it and driving is quite a risky shot early on. We need to take our time, get through and build from there.”