Kent make it five on the spin
Kent make it five on the spin

Kent are five games unbeaten in this season’s One Day Cup with a comfortable seven wicket victory over Gloucestershire at The County Ground, Beckenham thanks to centuries for Heino Kuhn and Joe Denly.

The centurions also got their names into the record books as they surpassed a twenty-eight year record for the highest second wicket stand versus Gloucestershire as well as adding the highest partnership in all One Day cricket at this ground.

Whilst Heino Kuhn finished the weekend with an average of 115 with scores of 117 versus Surrey on Friday and 113 today.

On a hot day with nowhere to hide for fans and players alike Kent were invited to field by their opponents in anticipation of another good wicket on which to bat.

And the visitors certainly weren’t to be disappointed as Kent found bowling to Gloucestershire hard going in the heat.

The opening pair of Chris Dent and George Hankins saw off Kent’s bowlers, Sam Billings regularly changing his options to find a breakthrough, facing little danger and amassed a healthy opening partnership in respective innings where boundaries weren’t necessary the order of the day but the two Gloucestershire men prepared to get bat on ball and find gaps in the field to steadily accumulate runs for their side to give them a sound footing and foundation for their innings.

And it took a while for Kent to make inroads but their patience was to be rewarded with a name all Kent fans and those across the cricketing landscape would be fully all to aware of, Darren Stevens.

A somewhat loose shot uncharacteristic of the innings saw Stevens grab the opening wicket as Dent (63) struck the ball in the air towards Calum Haggett however the Kent man had plenty to do to sprawl and dive low to take the catch as the century and beyond opening wicket ended, Gloucestershire 132/1 (20.4; Hankins 64*).

Kent would have been keen to get the established Hankins in quick succession to that of his opening partner Dent but the Kent side would not be disappointed either way to continue taking wickets and Kent didn’t have all too long to wait for further success.

But it wasn’t Hankins (73*) to fall but Benny Howell (15) with a quick cameo, scooping a Stevens ball onto the leg side but straight at Mitch Claydon running in from the boundary rope at fine leg, Gloucestershire 156/2.

Gloucestershire regrouped whilst Kent were determined to get more breakthroughs although the wicket was proving a difficult one for the bowlers and with Gloucestershire maybe content to continue to add runs consistently without peppering the boundary rope.

Kent got their reward for persistence, however, with Stevens again at the heart of the action. This time, though, Joe Denly got the wicket to his name as Stevens took a comfortable catch coming in from the boundary rope, Roderick (19) the man to fall, leaving Gloucestershire 185/3, Hankins (83*) still in the middle.

But it wasn’t to be for Hankins (92), out in the “nervous nineties”, as Matt Henry got in on the act beating the opener for pace to remove the bails, clean bowled, with Gloucestershire 206/4 (36.2).

With two fairly new men at the crease Kent will have anticipated more breakthroughs to get into the lower reaches of the Gloucestershire batting order but it wasn’t to be as Jack Taylor and Ian Cockbain manipulated the ball around the ground.

And with the innings coming to a close the two men in the middle, in bringing up their sides three-hundred, also brought about their own half centuries; Taylor striking the ball into the seated stand at Beckenham (37b, 2×4, 3×6) and Cockbain sending the ball to the boundary for four two balls later (41b, 4×4, 2×6); 300/4 (47.0).

Perhaps unsurprisingly as the innings reached the final curtain Kent were rewarded with wickets at a time the visitors would look to press on and snatch as many late runs as possible and inside the final ten balls of the innings the home side were rewarded.

Taylor’s innings came to a close striking the ball high but not long enough for his liking but certainly for the liking of Daniel Bell-Drummond, the Kent opening batsman catching the ball off the bowling of Calum Haggett (53; 305/5).

And Haggett bagged a brace as Ryan Higgins (2) went similarly to Taylor striking the ball high but straight to Sean Dickson in front of the Kent fans seated in the main stand (308/6).

And with Matt Henry, wickets a-plenty this season, to bowl the final over Kent were sure to take more at the death although the bowler was not to be credited but instead Denly, fielding in the deep took the accolades.

Cockbain and Tom Smith (1) went for one risk too many as Denly returned the ball swiftly to Henry at the non-strikers end, running out the new man (320/7) and one ball later Denly this time returned the ball to Sam Billings to run out Cockbain (68; 321/8).

Kent’s opening pair Bell-Drummond and Heino Kuhn took to the run chase positively similarly to that only two days’ previous finding gaps in the field to stroke the ball over the boundary ropes, bringing up their sides half-century in the seventh over.

But as the opening ten over power-play came to an end so did Bell-Drummond (40), clipping the ball off his pads but at George Hankins at mid-wicket – The Gloucester man breathing a sigh of relief having dropped the Kent man on ten whilst at first slip – Kent 66/1.

Kuhn continued to enjoy Beckenham partnered now by Denly with the pair taking the game to the visitors and as the fifteenth over came and went the Kent opener struck a six over the bowlers head to take his sides ongoing total to 98/1 with Denly taking two shortly after Kent had reached their century (100/1; Kuhn 43*, Denly 15*).

The pair exploited gaps in the field well not playing unnecessarily by crashing the ball to the boundary rope as Kuhn and Denly were ably allowing the scoreboard to constantly be moving in closing towards the 323 total set for them to chase down.

Kuhn followed his excellent innings against Surrey to start this Beckenham double-header weekend by registering another half-century (44b, 6×4, 1×6).

At the halfway point Kuhn (72*) and Denly (43*) had comfortably led their side to 164/1 and with a target of 323 required the score itself was just over halfway to the required total.

Denly followed his partner in the middle to a half century of his own in taking a single in the 27th over – Denly’s milestone coming from 69 balls included 3×4 and 1×6 (188/1; Kuhn 89*).

The Kent pair were looking strong and as Joe Denly (56*) struck a six over the bowlers head he and Kuhn (91*) had equalled a second wicket partnership record and in taking a single a ball later (197/1) the pair secured the record.

This partnership was the highest second wicket stand versus Gloucestershire and the highest in all one-day cricket at Beckenham – The previous records held by Trevor Ward and Colin Cowdrey (Canterbury, 1990) and Mark Wagh and Jonathan Trott (Beckenham, 2004).

And what better way to follow that? Kuhn bagged his second century of the weekend, cutting the ball away for four (90b, 11×4, 2×6), with Kent very well placed on 219/1 (Denly 68*).

With fifteen over’s (ninety balls) remaining Kent were down to double figures in search of the target set – The home side were looking strong on 238/1 (Kuhn 105*, Denly 83*).

Sadly for Kuhn (113) he was unable to bring the game home for his side as he was caught at deep long-off just short of his record amassed at the same venue earlier during the weekend (252/2 from 37.3; Denly 89*).

With the second power-play coming to a close to leave the final ten over’s of the match Kent suffered a third loss of wicket. Bowler Craig Miles got down low to the ground off his own bowling to take an impressive caught and bowled – Sam Billings (2) the man to go.

Being the final ball of that over Kent would now face the final ten over’s (60 balls) requiring 64 runs to win (259/3; Denly 93*).

But before the total was under consideration Denly had a target of his own to reach and duly achieved it soon into the final throes of the game – Reaching three figures once more (104b, 7×4, 3×6; Kent 267/3).

With thanks to Denly and Kuhn the result was never in doubt as the Kent side had managed their innings for the target very well.

At the end Alex Blake assured there were no issues in bringing the game to the wire as, with five over’s (30 balls) to bowl, he took it upon himself to add his customary explosive nature to proceedings bringing the target down from twenty-six runs striking a six and four-fours to leave four runs required from the remaining twenty-four deliveries.

The game was brought to a close as the pair shared a quickly run two and Kent brought their Beckenham weekend to a close with two wins on the bounce, five on the bounce in the competition.

An added celebration for the side and particularly for Sam Billings was for news of his call-up to the England One Day Squad for games against Australia later in the month of June meaning although the bittersweet fact he would be scheduled to miss Kent’s game in the County Championship at Tunbridge Wells (Warwickshire) and the pink ball day/night game at Canterbury (Middlesex).

Kent Spitfires: Bell-Drummond, Kuhn, Denly, Billings (c, w), Dickson, Blake, Stevens, Haggett, Henry, Claydon, Qayyum

Gloucestershire: Dent, Hankins, Howell, Roderick, Cockbain, J Taylor, Higgins, Smith, Miles, M Taylor, Liddle

Match Summary

Gloucestershire: 322/8 (Hankins 92, Cockbain 68, Dent 63; Stevens 2/43, Haggett 2/51)

Kent Spitfires: 323/3 (Kuhn 113, Denly 109*, Blake 44*; Miles 2/73)