Stevens stars as Kent shine
Stevens stars as Kent shine

Last-wicket partners Lewis Hill and Callum Parkinson hit half-centuries to scrub a little lustre off Darren Stevens’ seven-wicket haul on a fascinating opening to Kent’s Specsavers County Championship clash with Leicestershire.

On an ideal batting day in Canterbury, the visitors were in danger of underperforming as they slid to 174 for eight – with Stevens bagging their first seven. But the Foxes’ tail wagged and, as the host attack tired, their last pair counter-punched to add an unbroken 98 that sent their side in at stumps sitting pretty on 326 for nine.

The opening two sessions had belonged to Kent with Stevens making his first breakthrough in the 10th over, nipping one through the defensive push of left-hander Harry Dearden (11) to hit the back pad and secure the first of three successful lbw appeals.

Kent’s three other seamers; Adam Milne, Matt Coles and Mitch Claydon, toiled manfully in the heat but without ever matching the sustained accuracy or continued threat posed by Stevens’ ‘dibbly-dobbly’.

Stevens struck again by trapping Michael Carberry lbw. The former Kent opening batsman jumped back across his stumps when aiming to work to leg only to miss an in-ducker and become Stevens’ 400th first-class victim.

Four balls later Colin Ackerman, the tall South Africa right-hander, pushed outside the line of a leg-stump away-swinger that thudded into his pad and left umpire Russell Warren with little option but to raise his trigger finger once again.

Stevens struck for a fourth time in his second over after lunch when Mark Cosgrove, having smashed nine fours in a counter-attacking 40, flicked airily in the region of mid-wicket only to hole out to long-on via a leading edge.

Stevens nipped one back off the seam and through the gate of Ned Eckersley’s drive to hit the top of off stump and secure his sixth five-wicket haul of the season and the 18th of a prolific all-round career.

Neil Dexter, a crowd favourite during his time with Kent, joined forces with Lewis Hill to add 67 inside 25 overs for the sixth wicket. But, after a short rest, Stevens returned to end Dexter’s 86-ball stay for 40 with a beauty that pitched on middle and grazed the top of off.

Stevens bagged seven for the second time in his career when Ben Raine jabbed down late on an in-swinger and edged low to Coles at second 
slip. Raine, stood his ground, believing he had played the ball into the ground, but the umpires conferred before upholding the appeal.

Any hope of a Stevens clean sweep ended just before tea when Matt 
Pillans swung lustily and edged one from Milne through to the keeper Sam Billings.

After tea, Leicestershire’s ninth-wicket partners Hill and Clint McKay opted to throw the kitchen sink at anything pitched up to them, a ploy that seemingly bemused the Kent attack.

Stevens’ figures took a relative battering as the pair went aerial, clubbing fours to all parts in taking their side past 200 for a first batting bonus point. The little and large pairing added 54 before McKay, on 32, sliced a lofted drive against Qayyum into the hands of Milne at deep extra cover.

Hill’s impish approach took him to a deserved 129-ball half-century, his first of the season and Leicestershire’s sole first innings 50 in their last five championship matches.

Foxes’ last man Callum Parkinson joined in the fun by clubbing one from Stevens into the top tier of the Frank Woolley stand to secure a third batting bonus point as the home attack ran out of steam.

Parkinson reached his maiden first-class 50 from 48 balls, with four fours and a six as he and Hill beat Leicestershire’s previous best 10th wicket stand against Kent of 96, set by George Geary and Alex Skelding at the Aylestone Road Ground, Leicester, in 1925.

Leicestershire’s top-scorer Hill was delighted by his part in the fightback. He said: “We were struggling at 150-odd for six so to come off with 326 on the board with a wicket left can’t be bad. It’s been a great day for us in the end and we’ll look to push on in the morning if we can.

“It was a bit tough early on and they bowled some really nice lines, especially ‘Stevo’, but we fought, we tried and stuck in there and knew once we got into the last session that their guys would be getting into their 20th overs. We tried to take them as long into the day as we could and we got the rewards late in the day.”

Stevens, who finished with seven for 59, said it had been a frustrating final session. “It was a day of two halves and we’re very frustrated. There wasn’t much pace in it for our quicker lads and at 170-odd for eight we were in a dominant position, but we let ourselves down a little bit after that.

“The ball got softer and the boys got a bit weary, this being the first day back after five weeks of T20. That took its toll a little bit but adapting day-to-day it’s all part and parcel of playing first-class cricket.”


 
Seo