Denly pushes for Ashes place
Denly pushes for Ashes place

Kent’s Joe Denly is clearly in the mood to retain his Test place for the Ashes series. He followed his recent century against Notts at Tunbridge Wells with a battling innings of 88 in five hours, 19 minutes against Surrey before he fell to the first delivery with the new ball bowled by Morne Morkel at The Kia Oval.

He and Daniel Bell-Drummond gave Kent the edge with a third wicket partnership of 110 in 34 overs.

Bell-Drummond, on 17, had his helmet broken by a nasty, rearing delivery from  Morkel, but went on to make 64.  Then Denly and Heino Kuhn, who made an aggressive 50 not out, added a brisk 72.  At the close Kent were 285-4, a lead of 14.

Kent had made a difficult start to their innings when Sean Dickson, who was not playing a shot, was bowled for one by a big inswinger from Sam Curran.  But then Zak Crawley gave them momentum with a fluent 69 from 105 balls, with 13 fours.

In the morning Surrey had resumed on 244-6, with Ben Foakes (57) and Rikki Clarke (5)  the overnight batsmen.  Kent took the new ball eight balls later.  But when Clarke drove Matt Milnes for three fours in four deliveries the ball was changed.  It was just five balls old.

Then Foakes was bowled middle stump for 60, a beautiful delivery from Harry Podmore, Clarke was lbw for a lively 27 and finally Morkel was bowled shouldering arms.

A transgression of the rules was narrowly avoided when Surrey attempted to replace the ill Gareth Batty with fellow off-spinner Amar Virdi.

Batty, who had taken no part in the match, had gone down with a “virulent virus” and Surrey obtained permission from Kent and consulted with the match’s Cricket Liaison Officer, Steve Davis.  They announced the replacement before the start of play but Davis contacted the England and Wales Cricket Board for a ruling and was told the switch could not be made.

Surrey then announced: “Despite Kent kindly agreeing to allow Amar Virdi to replace Gareth Batty the ECB have since stated that this is outside the competition regulations.  Batty remains in the side but is unlikely to play today.”

Virdi was close to coming in to bat as last man when Surrey lost quick wickets. Morkel was ninth out at 271, and for a while the scoreboard announced that Surrey had declared at 271-9 as everyone left the field.

According to ICC regulations a match can lose first-class status if a player is replaced from the starting eleven, unless it’s a case of concussion or involves a player being released from international duty.

There was more controversy when Surrey fielded and asked for the ball to be replaced after coming into contact with silage bins just outside the boundary. The fielders left the field to wash their hands.

Michael Di Venuto (Surrey’s Head Coach):  “We were told that Batts [Gareth Batty] was ill and unlikely to get out of bed for a day or two.  He hadn’t taken part in any part of the game, so we asked Kent the question.

“To their credit they didn’t have a problem with it.  They were incredibly understanding of the situation we were in. So we went through the CLO, Steve Davis, who said as long as both sides were happy, he was ok with it.  But apparently there is a law somewhere that the ECB informed us of and it wasn’t to be.  It was common sense for us.  It’s not something that’s going to happen every year, maybe every five years.  There was nothing we could do about it.

“If we had lost a wicket three minutes before, Amar Virdi would have batted and then I don’t know what would have happened to the game.  It might have been postponed.”

Zak Crawley (Kent):  “I felt really good out there.  It was great to get a few runs with Joe [Denly] and build us a total.  And we managed to go past them.  It was a good day for us.

“People like Morne Morkel and Rikki Clarke are always going to bowl well.  They are high quality bowlers. So it was slow going at times. It was about working hard.

“We only had to wait eight balls this morning for the new ball.  Matt Milnes bowled very well yesterday without luck so he deserved his success today.  It was payback time.  Then we came in to bat and the blue sky came out.”