Kent beaten inside two days
Kent beaten inside two days

Harry Dearden hit a quick-fire 50 to help Leicestershire spank Kent by 10 wickets with two days to spare in their Specsavers County Championship clash in Canterbury.

In possibly the most one-sided of Kent’s 167 Canterbury Week games staged at the Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, the Foxes out-scrapped and out-classed their title-chasing hosts from ball one to fully deserve their 20-point win.

Having dismissed Kent for 104 on a feathery, greenish seamer after the opening day’s uncontested toss, Leicestershire batted sensibly to garner a match-defining first innings lead of 125.

Batting second time around, Kent succumbed for 199 inside 50 overs, leaving the visitors to knock off 75 without loss in 15.4 overs for their fourth win of the campaign and with eight balls of day two still in hand.

Paul Nixon, Leicestershire’s head coach said: “This was a wonderful message for us to send out to the rest of the division. The guys had to work hard on a pitch that was made slightly softer by the rain during Kent’s T20 game here on Friday.

“It was the right decision to bowl first and the way the guys bowled to build pressure was great to see. We held most of our catches, mainly through Ned Eckersley, who took eight in the game, and then went on to excel with the bat. His 79 on that pitch from 169 balls was as good an innings as we’ve had for Leicestershire this year.

“The lads are up in the dressing rooms dancing ‘Bollywood style’ in tribute to Abbas and they thoroughly deserve it because we’ve proved to the opposition that we wanted this win.”

Having conceded an 125-run first innings deficit, Kent lost Daniel Bell-Drummond for a fifth-ball duck without before lunch and, despite an improving pitch, faired even worse after the resumption to lose their last seven wickets for 66 runs inside 20 overs.

Kent’s second wicket-partners and fellow South Africans Sean Dickson and Heino Kuhn dug in to add 71, until Kuhn’s scratchy 76-minute stay for 29 ended when he pulled a short one from Gavin Griffiths to Mark Cosgrove at mid-wicket.

Joe Denly helped Dickson to take Kent’s total into three figures before he pushed outside a Neil Dexter off-cutter to depart lbw for a fluent 24.

Dickson also went before tea, having posted Kent’s only half-century of the match from 63-balls he walked well outside off stump against Ben Raine to edge a defensive push to the keeper and go for 59 – the second top score in the match.

Dickson, however,  backed Kent to bounce back from the defeat, saying: “We have shown all season how we stick together. Cricket is a funny sport when it comes to winning and losing and days like this, we will just want to forget.

“But we are a strong, goal-driven unit, and we will bounce back from these two disappointing days. Come the next four-day game, Kent will be up for it … make no bones about that.”

Sadly for Dickson, Kent’s capitulation gathered momentum after tea in the face of the best seam-bowling stints of the match from Muhammad Abbas and Zak Chappell.

Abbass, who came into the game nursing a side strain, bagged three for 18 in 34 balls while Chappell, the wiry blonde-haired right-armer snared three for 11 in nine balls as Kent seemingly lost their will to bat.

With the game all but beyond them, Kent’s attack served up nine boundary balls thereafter to allow the Foxes to chase their win with six sessions of the match still in hand.

Leicestershire’s valuable first innings lead was due in large to Ned Eckersley’s gritty 79 – the top score of the match. Fresh from taking five catches behind the stumps for on day one, Eckersley reached the 50 milestone in a shade under three hours, from 125 balls and with six fours as Kent took an hour and 50 minutes to claim Leicestershire’s last four first-innings wickets.

The hosts made their first breakthrough of the day after 50 minutes’ play and through Grant Stewart’s sixth ball of the day that lifted and left Chappell and grazed the outside edge for Sean Dickson to snaffle a throat-high catch at slip.

Mitch Claydon replaced Harry Podmore at the Nackington Road End, and also struck in his first over having Callum Parkinson caught off the gloves from a leg-stump lifter by keeper Sam Billings.

With the second new ball approaching, Kent gave an experimental over to opening batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond, who came up trumps for the hosts by ending Eckersley’s four-hour stay with his second ball of the match. Attempting a back foot force to a shooting away-swinger, top-scorer Eckersley dragged the ball on to off stump to go for 79 from 169 balls with 10 fours.

Claydon duly polished the job off, uprooting the leg stump of Abbas as the tail-ender smeared across the line leaving Kent to bat a tricky eight minutes through to the lunch break.