Bell-Drummond knock in vain as Kent lose
Bell-Drummond knock in vain as Kent lose

Simon Harmer became the highest wicket taker in the Specsavers County Championship to help Essex secure their second victory of the season with a 113-run win over Kent.

South African Harmer ripped through the Kent batting line-up to celebrate figures of eight for 98, his 10th five-wicket for Essex, to pouch his 29th wicket of the campaign – to overtake Fidel Edwards and Matt Milnes.

Harmer, who bowled 33 overs unchanged, and Essex had been frustrated by a stoic 81 by Daniel Bell-Drummond but strode to victory by taking wickets around the No.4.

In the match, Harmer returned analysis of 11 for 170.

The victory saw Essex take 22 points from the match and move above Kent in the table – with the visitors returning home with three points.

Essex began the day on 181 for six, and moved that to 206 for seven in four overs before declaring – Michael Pepper the man to depart when he was lbw attempting to slog sweep Matt Milnes.

That gave Kent a total of 338 runs to score, or survive a minimum of 90 overs – with the hope of replicating their incredible last day draw against Surrey at Beckenham last week high on their minds.

Harmer was always likely to be Essex’s biggest hope of taking all 10 wickets on a fourth day pitch which threatened to turn sharply.

It took nine overs of Jamie Porter and Sam Cook before Ryan ten Doeschate threw the ball to the off-spinner and a further 2.5 overs before Harmer made the breakthrough.

After a 34-run stand for the first wicket, Harmer slid a delivery under a sweep from Zak Crawley to strike him on the pads plumb in front.

Six overs later, Harmer grabbed his second scalp as Joe Denly skipped down the track and skewed a slog to Nick Browne at deep square-leg.

In the next over Peter Siddle broke the Harmer monopoly on wickets when Sean Dickson edged to second slip, where Harmer was waiting to pouch.

Bell-Drummond and Heino Kuhn then held up Essex’s hopes, and gave Kent a glimmer of replicating their Beckenham heroics.

The pair batted out 23 overs, for 75-runs, although received a fair helping of assistance from the Essex fielders.

Kuhn was dropped twice, on 0 by Tom Westley at third slip and on 36 at mid-off by Sam Cook before he was three times unlucky when Harmer had him lbw without playing a shot.

Kent then lost two wickets in five balls to further dampen their hopes.

Ollie Robinson offered a catch to Ravi Bopara at leg slip to hand Harmer his fourth, with the umpire adjudging the ball to have flicked the bat before ballooning up, and then Wiaan Mulder edged behind third ball.

Darren Stevens provided some entertainment as he smashed two sixes in a 47-run stand with Bell-Drummond, but feel tamely when he prodded Harmer to Dan Lawrence at short midwicket.

Harry Podmore struck a six off Harmer but the wily twirler had the last laugh two balls later as the tailender thrashed to Sam Cook at cover.

Harmer had Milnes caught by Bopara at leg slip for his 10th of the match before rounding off the innings by bowling Bell-Drummond.

Essex bowler Simon Harmer:

“You can see the batsmen are very tentative and don’t know how to play me on a fourth day pitch.

“A lot of the Kent players tried to come out and try to use their feet and when that didn’t work they tried to go back to playing in their crease.

“From that you can gauge that they didn’t trust their defence. I felt a lot of them didn’t really have a game plan.

“There appeared to be a team directive to use their feet but not all the batsmen appeared comfortable doing that. You couldn’t see the fear in their eyes but there was uncertainty.

“There were periods after lunch where I don’t feel I bowled too well but every time I got a wicket I really felt in the game.

“Bowling to a new batter I always felt in the game.

“I don’t pay attention to the stats. It is still a long season. Those are the types of things you reflect on post season.

“If there are two of our bowlers taking 60 wickets this season then we will be in a good place as a team; like if two batsmen score over 1,000 runs and 800 runs.

“If those things happen you know the team is doing well and different people are contributing to wins.

“It is still early days in the competition and there are lots of games still to play but momentum is key.

“Winning two games now puts us in a good frame of mind and puts us in a good place going into the Yorkshire game.”

Kent batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond:

“We are obviously quite down. We put up a good fight but it wasn’t to be. It is similar to out last few games where we got over the line at Beckenham against Surrey.

“We need to show fight in this division and the guys know that and everyone is trying very hard to step up.

“When you are in that situation of saving games all you can do is fight. I guess it would be better if we were more consistent on the first three days, especially in the first innings.

“It was important to score some runs in this format. I will take a lot of confidence from it, but like all the batsmen in this match I rode my luck somewhat, even Sir Cook!

“I was happy with the fight I showed but ultimately I didn’t achieve the goal the team and I set out for.

“Spin hasn’t really played a part in Division Two so I have only really had four or five big spin tests in my six years in Division Two.

“Last week Batty bowled well, this week it was Harmer and I’m sure it’ll be Leach next time.

“Harmer was a massive threat and that means you can’t take it for granted and with the seams you think ‘I’ll take it to the other end’ but then they are still threatening you.

“I think we all had separate plans to deal with Harmer. Luck played a massive part in playing him and even I got out to him in the end.

“You look to go deep and then come down, you want to keep the bowler thinking.”