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Crawley stars as Kent dominate
Crawley stars as Kent dominate

Zak Crawley hit a “Daddy Hundred” as Kent reached 398 for four on day one of their LV= Insurance County Championship fixture with Nottinghamshire at Canterbury.

The Ashes star cashed in after being dropped when he was on two, making 158 from 153 balls and hitting three sixes before he was caught and bowled by Calvin Harrison, who was Notts’ most potent bowler, claiming two for 104.

Daniel Bell-Drummond was Kent’s next highest corer with 60 while Jack Leaning and Harry Finch were unbeaten on 54 and 42 respectively at stumps.

Kent were barely recognisable from the side that lost by 321 runs at Trent Bridge in July. Of the seven changes, Crawley was back from England duty and there were debuts for spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Aron Nijjar, signed on-loan from Essex.

The major talking point, however, was the ongoing absence of club captain Sam Billings.

Billings had taken a break from red-ball cricket earlier in the season and although he was included in the squad, Leaning remained captain and Finch retained the gloves.

Nottinghamshire handed a debut to Sri Lanka’s Asitha Fernando, just 24 hours after he’d arrived in the UK and on a day when the temperature in Canterbury was 30 degrees, the same as in his native Katuneriya.

It looked like a vital toss to win and after choosing to bat Kent’s openers put on 95 in a partnership of almost diametrically opposed styles.

Crawley played like he was still in Ashes mode, riding his luck at times on a surface that wasn’t as dead as it initially appeared. He was put down by Dane Paterson at point in just the second over and responded by cracking Brett Hutton for four consecutive fours in the third.

He punched his way past 50 when he straight-drove Paterson for four while Ben Compton, after one expansive early effort, Geoffrey Boycotted his way to 18 before he was bowled trying to reverse sweep Calvin Harrison, four minutes before lunch.

Crawley brought up his century off exactly 100 balls when he nudged Lyndon James to point for a single and reached 150 when he pulled Fernando for one through fine leg before Harrison somehow clung on to a violent drive to remove him.

Bell-Drummond was out to the very next delivery when he tried to hook Fernando and went to an acrobatic grab by keeper Tom Moores, but Tawanda Muyeye pulled the final ball of the afternoon session for six to leave the hosts on 260 for three at tea.

Muyeye and Leaning put on 59 for the next wicket, before the former went for 35. Having edged Steven Mullaney for four he ran out of luck when he nicked the next ball to Harrison at slip, but Finch joined Leaning to earn Kent a third batting point and the skipper brought up his half-century when he flicked Mullaney to third man for four in the penultimate over.

Kent’s Zak Crawley said: “I knew we had this in us, we’ve got a good batting line-up and it was a good day to bat so we’re obviously very happy with the situation.

“I was trying to be positive and I got a bit of luck early. I made the most of it. The ball was doing a little bit but I tried to take a punt and it came off. I felt really good, I’ve felt good the whole build up this last week. I felt so relaxed and I knew I had that score in me.

“There was a little bit there for sure, there wee a couple of nicks that went through the slips which were dropped and it’s starting to spin a bit well so that’s good and that’s what we wanted from the pitch.

“It’s obviously a big game for us. We need to win a couple of games, or one game to stay up. One might be enough but two would be nice and this might be one of the only games I play so to come back and contribute is always nice.

(On his dismissal) “I was so surprised I couldn’t believe he’d caught it. It was the hardest ball I’d hit all day and I just thought it was four. I was a little bit stunned by it but it was a brilliant bit of fielding.

(On his ODI role). “I think that’s what everyone wants, to play for England in n=any format. I’d love to be involved in that white ball set up and hopefully I get a few runs and keep knocking on that door. It’s an unbelievably good team and there’s just talent coming from everywhere so you’ve just got to stay ahead of the game.

“What I’ve done well this year is not pay much attention to that (the pressure.) I feel like I’ve been relaxed, just been myself and playing cricket for the fun of it again, which you and lose sight of sometimes. Hopefully I can continue with that mindset because it’s a lot more enjoyable. Even when it doesn’t go your way you realise how lucky you are to be playing professional sport. If you stray away from that you can get bogged down.

“It suits me to play that way (as he did with England). There’s going to be times when you get low scores and it’s going to look pretty average but if I can have days like today I wouldn’t swap that.”

“I watch Kent all the time (when away with England.) Some of my best mates are in this team and I really want them to do well, all the lads to be honest. I watch every game and follow every game intently and always want the boys to do well.”

Notts’ Calvin Harrison said: “”It was obviously a tough day in the field and a long day but we worked hard and they batted pretty well on a good wicket, so it’s going to be important for us to come back strongly tomorrow morning.

“You’ve always got to be out there looking to take wickets, it’s an obvious attacking mindset but sometimes to do that you want to be holding the rate which probably we didn’t do through some patches.

“Coming into tomorrow we’re going to have to try and make it as difficult as possible for them to score and hold the rate back and hopefully the wickets will come as a result of that pressure.”

(On his first wicket) “I didn’t know what was going on to be honest. I was appealing for the lbw and I turned round and the bail was on the floor. I don’t know what happened. Compo said it had come off his elbow.”

(On the catch that removed Crawley) “It happened so quickly it was instinctive. It just went flush into my hand so it was nice to hold on to it.”