Kent take control at Canterbury
Kent take control at Canterbury

Joe Denly’s second half-century of the game and a four-wicket, mid-afternoon blast by Mitch Claydon extended Kent’s clear advantage over battling Gloucestershire by the mid-point of their Specsavers County Championship clash in Canterbury.

After hitting 62 in Kent’s first innings, Denly followed with an equally vital 49 as Kent reached 118 for four for an emphatic overall lead of 267 going into day three of the match.

Batting for a second time by Saturday’s final session and having banked a 149-run lead, Kent suffered an early blow when Daniel Bell-Drummond prodded indeterminately at one from Liam Norwell to be caught at third slip with only three on the board.

Kent’s second-wicket pairing of Denly and Joe Weatherley set out their stall to bat time for an hour, content to knock the shine off the new ball in the face of a testing examination from the likes of David Payne, Chris Liddle, Craig Miles and Norwell.

With the hard work seemingly done Weatherley, on 34, wastefully chased a wide one from Norwell to edge to the keeper, but Denly dug deeper to post a second successive half-century off 92 balls and with eight fours.

Denly lost his skipper Sam Northeast for eight – off balance and aiming to leg he departed lbw to Miles – then just before stumps the former England one-day bat threw the sink at one from Miles to snick to a jubilant Phil Mustard.

Earlier, Kent mopped up seven mid-session Gloucestershire wickets for 60 runs to skittle the visitors for 149 by tea for exactly half their first-day total.

Only Chris Dent’s battling three-hour innings of 67 saved the visitors from total ignominy as Mitch Claydon bagged four for 35 and James Harris three for 42 as Gloucestershire succumbed inside 60 overs.

Dent, the 26-year-old Bristolian opener, laid anchor for 145 balls and fared better than most the face of some hostile, short pitched bowling from the Kentish triumvirate of Harris, Matt Coles and Claydon to take his side into the lunch break on 89 for three.

Buoyed by the break, Claydon bowled with continued pace and hostility after the resumption and was rewarded four wickets as Gloucestershire lost five wickets for 11 runs in the space of 61 deliveries.

Only 15 balls after the resumption Graeme van Buuren (10) sparred off the back foot only to edge to be caught by the juggling James Tredwell at second slip, then George Hankins played over a leg stump yorker to make it 106 for five.

Six overs later, Claydon struck again to end Dent’s stoic innings. Prodding half forward the left-hander dragged the ball onto his leg stump, and, without addition to the total, Mustard edged one from Stevens low to third slip and Jack Taylor departed after feathering an airy drive to slip.

David Payne and Miles added 22 runs on the counter attack before Miles nibbled one into the cordon off Harris, who then had last man Liddle caught behind via an inside edge and deflection off his front pad to end the innings and force an early tea.

At the start of second day Kent struck in the third over when Harris, the on-loan seamer from Middlesex, removed night watchman Norwell lbw for 13.

Fourth-wicket pairing Will Tavare and Dent rode their luck, playing and missing and surviving concerted lbw shouts against Darren Stevens and Harris, yet both stood firm to post a 50 stand by the 31st over.

The partnership added 71 in 26.5 overs before Will Gidman struck in his only over of the day and moments before lunch, bowling Tavare off his pads as the right-hander aimed to work to leg.

Phil Mustard, the Gloucestershire captain, bemoaned his side’s penchant for losing wickets in clusters, a hangover habit from their 2016 campaign. Mustard said: “At a 100 and odd for three we were in a pretty strong position today, but Kent came out and bowled nice and aggressively at us and we lost a few too many wickets in that middle period. We fell like that on occasions last season, so we must pick up on it and do our best to stop these sort of collapses again.

“The ball has done a little bit all game for the bowlers and Chris Dent and Will Tavare did their utmost to give us a batting platform, but it was always going to be hard after Will got a little bit unlucky and was bowled off his thigh pad.

“Getting Denly out near the end there was a vital wicket for us. Our target tomorrow is to try and stop Kent from scoring boundaries and getting further away from us, so hopefully we can come back in the morning and put on another decent bowling performance.”

Mitch Claydon, Kent’s leading bowler with a return of four for 35, said: “I had a couple of months off after Christmas and felt refreshed. Since then I’ve worked hard with Jason Gillespie in pre-season and have felt like I’ve been bowling with a good rhythm.

“If we can bat well tomorrow morning we can put ourselves in a position where there can only be one winner in this game. Then, we’ll need to execute our skills with the ball like we did today. If we line those things up then we should be alright.”

Kent side: Bell-Drummond, Weatherley, Denly, Northeast, Gidman, Stevens, Rouse, Coles, Tredwell, Harris, Claydon.

Gloucestershire side: Dent, Bancroft, Tavare, van Buuren, Hankins, Mustard, Taylor, Payne, Miles, Norwell, Liddle.

Uncontested toss. Kent bat first.

Close of play day two: Kent 298 all out (Denly 62, Stevens 50; Norwell 3-46) and 118/4 (Denly 59), Gloucestershire 149 all out (Dent 67, Claydon 4/35, Harris 3/42).