Kent dominant at Edgbaston
Kent dominant at Edgbaston

Zak Crawley led the way with a polished century as Kent took advantage of a good batting pitch more redolent of August than April on the opening day against Warwickshire at Edgbaston.

In the clash of the two newly-promoted Specsavers County Championship Division One sides, Kent chose to bat on a pale, true surface and closed the first day on 367 for five.

Twenty-one-year-old Crawley was the only member of the top four to take full advantage as he struck his second first-class century – 108  from 172 balls with 18 fours. But there were enough smaller contributions to make an injury-depleted Warwickshire attack toil hard for success and captain Heino Kuhn (72, 97 balls, 12 fours) and Ollie Robinson (59 not out, 104 balls, nine fours) cemented their team’s advantage after tea with a fifth-wicket stand of  119.

With front-line bowlers Chris Woakes, Olly Stone and Liam Norwell on the injured-list, the Bears have started the season short of seamers and selected Tom Milnes, who is uncontracted but back on trial at the club he left in 2015. The attack persevered on a pitch giving them little margin for error but Kent’s batsmen also applied themselves well and have the makings of a total from which to impose some serious scoreboard when Warwickshire go in.

Kent had no hesitation in choosing to bat first and seizing an opportunity for their batsmen to assert themselves and build some confidence after the collapse with cost their side victory in their opening game at Somerset last week. They started strongly as Crawley added 82 in 22.2 overs with Sean Dickson (31, 73 balls, four fours) and 87 in 27.1 overs with Matt Renshaw (87 balls, six fours). Dickson was the only man to fall in the morning session when he steered Ryan Sidebottom to Liam Banks in the gully.

From the strong platform of 169 for one, Kent hit an afternoon wobble when three wickets fell in 53 balls. Renshaw became Craig Miles’ first victim for Warwickshire when he edged the former Gloucestershire man to Tim Ambrose. The wicketkeeper soon swooped twice more, pouching Daniel Bell-Drummond from a outswinger from Henry Brookes and Crawley who inside-edged skipper Jeetan Patel.

At 204 for four, the day was in the balance but Kuhn and Robinson batted positively and with assurance. Kuhn fell lbw to Miles with the second new ball but 20-year-old Robinson recorded his maiden first-class half-century (81 balls, eight fours) and has power to add on the second morning.

Warwickshire first-team coach Jim Troughton said:

“It is an absolutely top-drawer wicket. It’s testament to our groundstaff – the best in the business.

That was a good wicket to win the toss and bat on and at 200 for 4 the game was in a position where it could go either way after the bowlers had worked hard and maybe not got their rewards. Zak Crawley batted very well. But then we just let the game drift and bowled a little bit two sides of the wicket and a little bit unclear about what we were trying to do to get them out, either bring in back in or feeding the slips.

“But that is a proper day of First Division championship cricket where you have got to work to get your poles and if you off-line you are going to get punished. There were a couple of dropped catches which isn’t ideal but the guys have run in all day and put in a good honest day’s work in the dirt.”

Kent batsman Zak Crawley said:

“It’s been a perfect start to the game and hopefully tomorrow we can go on to a big total and hopefully bat once and see if we can bowl them out twice.

“We had a chat about last week which was obviously very disappointing but we are just trying to move on this week going into a big break before the next championship game.

“I was very pleased with the century. I was on 99 for a while (again!) which was a bit nerve-racking but pleased to get there in the end. It was a lovely deck to bat on this early in the season, I am amazed how well the groundstaff have done. Warwickshire bowled well and created lots of chances and a few play-and-misses here and there and they are a good side so I was very pleased.”


 
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