Kent cruise to Northamptonshire win
Kent cruise to Northamptonshire win

Matt Henry was again Kent’s spearhead with 4 for 72 as they completed a 102-run victory against Northamptonshire at Canterbury and maintain their Specsavers County Championship Division Two promotion push.

Henry’s latest haul gave the New Zealand fast bowler match figures of 11 for 114 as Northants, who began the final day on 56 for 3 needing another 264 runs for a win of their own, were bowled out for 217 shortly before 2.45pm.

Adam Rossington, who top-scored with an excellent 56, held up Kent’s bowlers for almost three hours and featured in a seventh wicket stand of 48 with Nathan Buck, who battled to 17 before gloving a Henry short ball to keeper Sam Billings shortly after lunch.

Brett Hutton also offered lower order resistance, with 21, but the end came quickly once Rossington was eighth out, pulling Harry Podmore to Heino Kuhn, who was stationed as one of two short mid wickets.

Richard Gleeson was then caught behind off Joe Denly’s leg breaks to go for 3 and Hutton was last out – stumped off Denly, who finished with 2 for 7. Podmore took 2 for 32, while Henry now has 61 championship wickets from eight matches this season at an outstanding average of 14.85 runs apiece.

Kent were made to work hard for their eighth win of the championship campaign, however, with the Canterbury pitch flattening out noticeably from the testing surface on which 18 wickets had fallen on day one.

Richard Levi, Alex Wakely and Saif Zaib all fell in a hard-fought morning session in which Kent used six bowlers, and it was no surprise when Henry made the day’s initial breakthrough.

Henry, who took a career-best 7 for 42 in the Northants first innings of 105, opened up from the Nackington Road End and struck in his second over – the fourth of the day – when Levi was beaten by a ball which kept a little low and was leg-before for 14.

Earlier in the over, Wakely had driven successive balls from Henry through mid off and mid on for eye-catching fours, and the Northants captain had batted well for 38 from 74 balls when he unluckily edged on to his pad, attempting to force the last ball of Ivan Thomas’s first over through mid-wicket, and saw it lob up for the bowler to catch the rebound in his follow-through.

That was 105 for 5, and Northants lost their sixth wicket when Zaib, who had punched Henry through the covers off the back foot for a lovely four, was caught for 9 when he clipped Podmore’s second ball to Henry at mid-wicket.

Then came the Rossington-Buck partnership, however, and Kent were forced to regroup at lunch before Henry – who else? – broke the stand to ensure Billings’ team would bank 19 points from the win and move back into second place in the Division Two table behind leaders Warwickshire and five points in front of Sussex, who are third.

Kent head coach Matt Walker said: “It was not a straightforward task today. It took quite a bit of hard work because the pitch flattened out very quickly and in the end it took a lot of skill and patience to break the wall down, if you like.

“Before lunch we drifted a little bit in the field and took our foot off the gas. Perhaps we started to expect things to happen. But after lunch we showed a bit more attitude, energy and desire and we stuck at it out there until the wickets came.

“Matt Henry has been in unbelievable form this season and the number of wickets he’s got is extraordinary. But all our other bowlers have also stood up, all season, in support of Matt and they’ve all had their moments too. I thought, for instance, that Harry Podmore bowled brilliantly today – as he did up at Derby in our last match on a flat pitch. He kept on running in, didn’t let Northants get away from us and he performed a holding role superbly. He certainly deserved to get the couple of wickets he got.

“As for the last three games, we have just got to worry about ourselves. We have a tough match next week at Lord’s, against a very good Middlesex team, and with Sussex playing good cricket at the moment and Warwickshire still out in front it will be an exciting finish to the Division Two season. Indeed, I reckon there is some Division One standard cricket going on at the top of this division with everyone fighting hard to win games of cricket.”

Northants head coach David Ripley said: “We wanted to test ourselves against Kent, and the challenge was to compete with them over the whole game. We did compete well in parts of the game, but in other areas of it we came up short and that’s where the match was lost.

“It’s been the pattern of our season, really. We’ve played some good cricket at times but we’ve also lost some key moments heavily and this game was a repeat of that.”