Stevens shines as Kent take charge
Stevens shines as Kent take charge

Darren Stevens once again demonstrated that age is no object as Kent took charge on the second day of the Specsavers County Championship match against Gloucestershire at the Brightside Ground.

Still campaigning successfully in the Second Division at 42, the veteran all-rounder scored an enterprising half century and shared in a stand of 161 with centurion Joe Denly as the visitors ran up a record-breaking total of 582-9 declared in their first innings.

Stevens then took 2-11 in eight overs with the new ball as Gloucestershire’s top order imploded, the home side reaching the close on 44-4. Jack Taylor is unbeaten on 24 and Graeme van Buuren five not out, but Gloucestershire still trail by 538 runs with six wickets left and need a further 388 to avoid following on.

Five sessions in the field clearly took their toll, Stevens bowling Benny Howell without scoring via an inside edge and then knocking back Chris Dent’s middle stump as Gloucestershire’s captain shouldered arms.

Generating genuine pace at the other end, New Zealander Matt Henry had Gareth Roderick caught at gully and Dean Bracey edged a Harry Podmore length ball to the slips as the home side collapsed under scoreboard pressure.

Their attack denuded by the injury-enforced absence of Dan Worrall, Liam Norwell and David Payne, the hosts were made to toil in the heat as bat dominated ball on a characteristically low and slow Bristol pitch during the first two sessions.

Denly and Stevens ensured there was no let-up after Kent resumed on 297-4, the fifth wicket pair holding sway for 37 overs to lay the foundations for Kent’s highest ever total in a match at Bristol.

Leading by example, Denly posted a 93-ball fifty before moving up through the gears to register his first hundred of the season from 174 deliveries with 13 fours. Stevens matched his captain blow for blow in a forthright innings of 89 from 112 balls, the veteran campaigner opening his shoulders to plunder 13 fours and a six.

Although Kieran Noema-Barnett snared Stevens and Craig Miles, again the pick of the home bowlers, had Denly caught at the wicket shortly after lunch, there was no respite for a Gloucestershire side that visibly wilted under fire from Adam Rouse and Podmore.

Kent’s seventh wicket pair added 96 in 24.5 overs, both batsmen contributing half centuries to hasten a declaration that came shortly after the tea interval.

Miles’ persistence was rewarded with figures of 4-122 and slow left armer van Buuren weighed in with 3-74 but, for the rest of Gloucestershire’s bowlers, it was a day to forget.

Gloucestershire batsman Jack Taylor said: “It’s quite clear that we’re behind in the game and we now need to knuckle down and bat for a long time. We cannot afford to look too far ahead and it’s a matter of knocking the runs off chunk by chunk and taking it session by session.

“When you’ve been in the field for more than 160 overs, it’s hard going out to bat and losing early wickets has not helped our cause. These things can happen, but we do still have some decent batting to come.

“It’s a decent wicket without too many demons in it and, hopefully, I can bat for a long time tomorrow and help build some good partnerships.

“Our bowlers ran in hard all day, but it was tough for them on what was a pretty unresponsive wicket.”

Kent skipper Joe Denly said: “That’s the best track we’ve played on so far this season and it was a good day for the batters. It was nice to get some runs myself and the partnership with Darren Stevens was important in helping us post a big total.

“Harry Podmore and Adam Rouse did really well at the end and gave our bowlers the boost they needed.

“With Darren Stevens and \Mstt |Henry playing the way they are, my job is made easy and they bowled nice and straight with the new ball.

“It was good to get them four down, but there is still a lot of hard work to do over the next two days. We are going to have to work extremely hard and stay patient if we are going to get the 16 wickets we need.”