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Denly ton puts Kent in charge
Denly ton puts Kent in charge

Joe Denly’s 30th first-class century gave Kent a strong scent of victory over Warwickshire on the third day of their vital LV=Insurance County Championship match at Edgbaston. 

Kent shrugged off the loss of the first session to rain to advance their second innings to 384 for nine before declaring to leave the Bears a victory target of 325 with nine awkward overs to bat on the third evening. 

Warwickshire reached 28 for two to set up a fascinating final day if the forecast rain stays away. 

Denly’s accomplished 141 (269 balls) was his first championship century since 2019 and was well supported by Jordan Cox (79, 159 balls). The pair added 196 in 56 overs, a Kent fifth-wicket record against Warwickshire, surpassing the 182 by Jack Mason and William Rashleigh at Catford in 1899.  

It was a bitter-sweet day for the descendants of Mason and Rashleigh. They will no doubt feel wistful at the loss of their beloved relations’ record, but no doubt also some joy that the partnership which displaced it has levered Kent into a potentially winning position in such a crucial match. 

After rain washed out the morning session, the visitors resumed on 198 for four and Denly and Cox advanced in unhurried fashion. Cox passed 50 in 96 balls and Denly reached his century in 183 as Warwickshire’s depleted attack plugged away with defensive fields and diminishing assistance from the pitch. 

There was little that home captain Will Rhodes could to except rotate an attack in which, as has been the case for much of the season, Olly Hannon-Dalby towered above the rest – and not just because he is 6ft 8in tall. 

Denly and Cox batted throughout the afternoon and into the evening. They had just consigned Mason and Rashleigh’s Catford masterclass to history when Cox chipped Danny Briggs to short extra. 

Denly then edged the persevering Craig Miles to slip before Matt Henry smote three sixes, taking his match tally to 60 from 44 balls, to expedite the declaration. 

Warwickshire’s openers went out for nine overs with very little to gain and everything to lose and Kent took just 12 balls to strike. Alex Davies edged a lifter from Navdeep Saini to wicketkeeper Sam Billings and the visitors, their tails well and truly up, delivered another big blow in the last over when Henry trapped Chris Benjamin lbw.  

All results remain possible but Kent, their pace attack galvanised by the arrival of Henry and Saini, will strongly fancy their chances if an ominous weather forecast proves faulty.  

Warwickshire captain Will Rhodes said: “Any chase over 300 on the last day is going to be tricky but, as we saw with the Lancashire game here, they chased down a very similar score so we have got to take confidence from that. It was a shame to lose two tonight and obviously Benji’s decision is one that went against us and we have still got eight wickets in the shed. Sam Hain is probably the most inform batsman in the country and Dom Sibley with a point to prove with England so it makes for an interesting day.

“I think all round the country the mindset of cricketers now is that anything is possible. I think that’s the way the one-day game has taken four-day cricket and we will go into the day with that mentality and break it down into sessions, just llike Lancashire did. They left a lot to get in the last session but with wickets in hand so we will work to a very similar blueprint.”

Kent batsman Joe Denly said: “We are very happy with the position we are in. We are really in the game on a tricky wicket and hopefully we can turn up tomorrow and create eight more chances.

“It was tricky batting out there especially against the new ball which moved around and there was a little bit of variable bounce. Coxy’s been in superb form this season. He is a fine young player and I think there is plenty more runs to come from him throughout his career. 

“That partnership has really set us up nicely to go on and try to win it and the boys bowled superbly this evening to get us a couple of wickets late on.”