Kent pull off Warwickshire win
Kent pull off Warwickshire win

Kent skipper Joe Denly bagged three wickets in six balls for only a single to wrap up his side’s thrilling 73-run Specsavers County Championship win over Division 2 leaders Warwickshire.

In their pursuit of a championship record fourth innings target of 519, Warwickshire eventually succumbed soon after tea – for a county record fourth innings score of 445 – when Denly eventually introduced his leg spinners with the visiting target reduced to 91 with three wickets still intact.

The 32-year-old acting captain struck first in his third over by trapping Chris Wright leg before when pushing half-forward to a top-spinner.

Two balls later  Adam Hose, having posted his maiden championship 50 for Warwickshire, gave Denly the charge only to miss out, leaving umpire Steve O’Shaughnessy little choice but to raise the finger for lbw after the ball struck the batsman’s back pad.

Denly then completed Kent’s 19-point win by having Oliver Hannon-Dalby caught off a skier at mid-on as the tail-ender aimed to sweep. Kentish celebrations ensued, while Warwickshire contemplated a first defeat of the campaign that cut their leadership to eight points.

After leading Kent to their fourth win from six starts, Denly said: “It was certainly a hard-fought win coming off the back of a tough schedule. We’ve played some unbelievable cricket so far and the self-belief in our squad is amazing and I think that showed again today.

“We turned up today not really knowing how we really stood in this game to be honest. They were one down with Ian Bell at the crease and with a very good batting line-up to follow him on a pretty flat deck. It took a lot of belief and commitment from out guys to run in all day. When you have a team with that level of commitment anything is possible.

“The key word is character, the character shown throughout our entire bowling unit here. There were some tough chances taken and a couple dropped, but the slip cordon and Adam Rouse behind the stumps have all been superb this year and have helped toward this win.”

Denly, who also scored 59 and 119 in Kent’s two innings in the match, added: “I’m enjoying my bowling and it’s easier when I’m captain because I can always bowl myself a few more overs than usual. Tunbridge Wells is a nice place to bat and bowl and I always enjoy playing here.”

Earlier, former England Test stalwart Ian Bell had tried his utmost to underpin Warwickshire’s last day run-chase. On a fourth sunny day at The Nevill Ground, Bell showed all the style and panache that helped him to garner 118 Test caps in scoring a sublime, unbeaten 172.

The compact right-hander received one life when on 148 when Kent keeper Adam Rouse spilled a tough diving catch in front of first slip off the bowling of Matt Henry with his score on 148.

Soon after, Kent finally ended a second-wicket stand between Bell and Dominic Sibley that added 260 in 76 overs. The breakthrough came moments after Sibley had posted a 356-ball century – his first for his new county – from 356 balls. Squared up by Harry Podmore’s lifting leg-cutter, Sibley edged to Heino Kuhn at second slip.

Podmore produced another belter that brushed Jonathan Trott’s outside edge for Rouse to make amends for his earlier blunder.

After lunch Kent bagged four mid-session wickets, including the prized scalp of Bell. It was Ivan Thomas who ended Bell’s six-hour stay for an excellent 172. Typically easy on the eye, Bell caressed 24 fours before Thomas nipped an off-cutter back in off the seam to snare Bell leg before when pushing defensively on the back foot.

Five overs later Tim Ambrose pushed down the wrong line against Matt Henry to have his off stump tripped then Harry Podmore picked up his third wicket of the day by having Keith Barker caught on the drive off a thin edge by Sean Dickson at slip.

Adam Hose, having been dropped in the cordon by Heino Kuhn off Matt Henry with his score on 28, posted his maiden 50 from 92 balls and with seven fours, but then lost seventh wicket partner and skipper, Jeetan Patel, when he steered one to Adam Riley at fourth slip to become Henry’s 49th victim of a hugely successful season thus far.

Denly finished it off in spectacular fashion thereafter to finish with three for 24, Podmore took four for 84 and eight in the game for career-best match figures while Kent’s impressive Kiwi workhorse, Henry, bagged two for 128 from 28 overs.

Warwickshire coach Jim Troughton praised both sides for a great game of cricket. He said: “After the first hour and a half we were still in a great position, but you have to credit Matt Henry and Harry Podmore. Henry bowled eight and 10 overs spells in hot conditions, but his pave never seemed to wane.

“We knew after the third day we needed to bat to perfect sessions to put ourselves in a winning position, but we didn’t quite manage to do that. A lot of credit to Kent, but also to our guys who made them work for every single wicket, even on that first day when 20 fell, we never gave our wickets away. In the end that 70-run deficit in the first innings ended up being the winning margin at the end of the game.”


 
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