Honours even at season opener
Honours even at season opener

Liam Norwell led a determined Gloucestershire bowling display in Canterbury where Kent were dismissed for 298 on the opening day of the Specsavers County Championship season.

The 25-year-old Cornish-raised paceman bagged three for 46, while Chris Liddle, Craig Miles and Graeme van Buuren snaffled two apiece as Kent succumbed inside 89 overs on a green-tinted pitch that offered the visiting seamers some assistance throughout the day.

Batting first after an uncontested toss, Kent had 25 on the board within half-an-hour before Daniel Bell-Drummond became their first casualty of the Division 2 campaign. Prodding forward to a fine Liam Norwell leg-cutter, the England Lions opener was caught low down at third slip by George Hankins to go for 11.

At the other end, Joe Weatherley, who has joined Kent on long-term loan from Hampshire, looked assured and confident on his club debut. Getting off the mark with a rasping square cut, the wiry right-hander then straight drove left-armer David Payne for another eye-catching boundary.

Gloucestershire made a double bowling change before noon – introducing Chris Liddle and Craig Miles – but Kent trundled to their 50 in the 18thover of the day and, by the 26th over, Weatherley and Joe Denly had posted their half-century stand.

Weatherley’s stay ended soon after for 36 and to the second delivery of a new spell by Miles. In looking to shoulder arms to a good length leg-cutter, Weatherley inadvertently allowed the ball to brush the face of his bat to offer keeper Phil Mustard the simplest of chances. It was the veteran gloveman’s 650th first-class catch.

Gloucestershire’s bowlers strengthened their hand in mid-session, taking four more wickets for 129 runs as Kent’s batsmen failed to cash-in on decent starts. Denly continued Kent’s profligate trend, driving imperiously, he cantered to a 96-ball 50 with nine fours but, with 62 to his name the right-hander chased a wide one from Norwell to edge to slip and bring an end to a bright third-wicket stand with Sam Northeast that added 58 inside 13 overs.

Without addition to the total, Northeast (22) pushed at one from Liddle that nibbled away off the seam and feathered the outside edge to present Chris Dent with a sharp chance at second slip that made it 134 for four.

Will Gidman raised Kent’s 150 for a first batting bonus point with a square drive that rattled the boundary boards but, with his score on 10, the left-hander pushed, firm-handed at another beauty to edge to slip and give Norwell a deserved third wicket.

Darren Stevens lifted the run rate with a straight six off Jack Taylor that bisected the Cowdrey and Woolley stands as the wily all-rounder posted a 51-ball 50 with seven fours to go with his maximum. But, in attempting to clip his next ball through mid-wicket, Stevens miscued to square leg to be caught by Cameron Bancroft off the bowling of Graeme van Buuren and leave the hosts six wickets down.

Soon after the resumption Adam Rouse (13) fenced at lifting away swinger from Miles to edge to Mustard, then, after a couple of lusty blows, Matt Coles (11) holed out to deep mid-wicket to gift van Buuren a second scalp.

James Tredwell and James Harris, the Middlesex seamer and Kent’s second debutant loanee of the day, took the home score beyond 250 for a third batting bonus point until the second new ball accounted for Tredwell (26) caught behind off a full-length away-swinger from Payne.

Harris and last man Mitch Claydon continued to go for their shots but, with Kent two short of a fourth batting point, Claydon spooned to mid-wicket to give Liddle a second wicket and leave Harris unbeaten on 33.

In the five overs through to stumps Gloucestershire’s Bancroft played inside a Stevens away-swinger to lose off stump as the visitors reached nine for one to trail by 289 going into the second day.

Kent’s experienced opener Joe Denly said: “When I got out I felt that we’d have been very happy with any score above 250 and 300 would have been fantastic and we’re up around that, so we’re delighted with the score we have up on the board. The pitch has offered quite a lot for the bowlers, not so much with seam movement but in terms of bounce.

“There were areas both ends where the ball took off a little and that made batting for long periods very tough. I think our bowlers need to be relentless in the areas they hit tomorrow and that’ll be key. Controlling the scoreboard and putting enough deliveries in those areas where we’ll get bounce.”

Despite the loss of Cameron Bancroft, his overseas star, late in the day, Richard Dawson, Gloucestershire’s head coach, was content with his side’s work: “I thought our bowlers stuck at things really well and picked up wickets at crucial times. To get Stevens, just as he was about to let loose and get going, was a big wicket.
“Van Buuren did well to hold up one end and the seamers kept rotating and supporting really well. As a unit we bowled well. We have to get level with them tomorrow and see where we go from there.”

Kent side: Bell-Drummond, Weatherley, Denly, Northeast, Gidman, Stevens, Rouse, Coles, Tredwell, Harris, Claydon.

Gloucestershire side: Dent, Bancroft, Tavare, van Buuren, Hankins, Mustard, Taylor, Payne, Miles, Norwell, Liddle.

Uncontested toss. Kent bat first.

Close of play day one: Kent 298: Denly 62, Stevens 50; Norwell 3-46, Gloucestershire 9-1

Kent 2pts, Glos 4pts