Dickson stars as Kent dominate
Dickson stars as Kent dominate

Sean Dickson put a Warwickshire’s patched-up side to the sword with a season’s best 146 not out as Kent cantered to 338 for two on the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship match in Canterbury.

In the best batting conditions of the summer, Dickson featured in two century stands for the sixth-placed hosts that ensured Warwickshire, in seventh, had plenty of leather chasing to do during a one-sided opening day of 96 overs.

Batting first after winning the toss, Kent’s Zak Crawley and Dickson made hay with their season’s best opening stand of 132 against a makeshift Bears’ attack shorn of six, first-choice bowlers through injury or unavailability.

With such a lengthy list of absentees, Warwickshire named two loan signings in Ben Mike (Leicestershire) and Toby Lester (Lincolnshire), as well as James Wainman, the former Yorkshire left-armed seamer, recently signed on a short-term deal as a free agent.

Sensing their opportunity, Dickson and Crawley latched onto anything loose to post 50 at less than a run-a-minute with Crawley plundering five boundaries to Dickson’s brace.

Some brief cloud cover allowed Warwickshire to re-group and send down four maidens through Wainman and Will Rhodes, but the return of blue skies rekindled Kent’s dominance with the bat as Crawley stroked his ninth boundary through extra cover to move to a 68-ball 50 and take Kent into lunch on 116 without loss.

After the resumption Dickson posted his second half-century of the summer from 99 balls and with five fours as he and Crawley went past 128, their previous best opening stand of the season scored against Surrey at Beckenham in May.

But soon after notching his 700th first-class run of the season Crawley fell leg before for 72 after missing an attempted flick through mid-wicket to a Rhodes in-ducker. Their stand of 132 was Kent’s best first-wicket partnership on the ground in Championship cricket since David Fulton and Joe Denly hit 123 against Middlesex in September, 2006.

Dickson and Denly, now in his second stint with Kent, both ploughed on adding 54 inside 16 overs before Denly, tied down on 22 after an hour at the crease, needlessly flung the bat at a wide one from Matt Lamb to be caught at slip.

Kent secured a first batting bonus shortly before tea, then Dickson reached his second century of the summer early in the final session from 212 balls with 10 fours.

With a second batting point under their belts, Dickson and Daniel Bell-Drummond tried to accelerate, but Jeetan Patel, the Warwickshire off-spinner and skipper, sent down 21 frugal overs either side of tea to keep the run-rate in check.

Even so, Kent’s third-wicket partners notched a century stand in 34 overs with Bell-Drummond reaching his half-century from 122 balls that also raised Kent’s 300.

Patel finally rested, allowing Lester and Wainman to share the second new ball, but Warwickshire’s wicketless run increased to 43 overs as Kent reached stumps without further alarm with Bell-Drummond on 68 not out.

Dickson, who’s 100th run coincided with a Red Arrows’ flyby, said: “Batting at Canterbury has been a bit of a struggle for me over the past two years, but all credit to Adrian Llong, the groundsman, who’s really produced a nice batting track for us this week.

“It was great to get out there and keep going. The ideal scenario from here would be to bat big and bowl them out twice. They’re heavy on injuries right now and they’ll have tired legs once we’ve finished batting, so if our bowlers can hit the same spots over and over, then I’m sure we’ll pose them some serious questions.

“I just looked to play straight. My game plan was to stay tighter, keep it in the ‘v’ and it’s worked for today at least. The team target is 500-plus, as for me, I’m 50-odd away from a double hundred. Those opportunities don’t come around too often, so I’ll get my head down and try to battle through.

“It felt good to get my second championship ton today, because in between those scores it’s been hurting. It meant a lot to get to three figures and my mum has already been in touch from South Africa taking credit for the Red Arrows flying over the ground!”

Jim Troughton, the Warwickshire head coach, refused to blame the club’s horrendous injury list for leaking 338 runs in the day. “It was a good toss to win and it would have been nice had we had first use of it today. We are under extreme circumstances with all our frontline seamers injured and another playing for England in Chris Woakes.

“To have all our options taken away by injury is a little hard to swallow, so it was a tall order for us today opening up with a couple of bowlers on loan who were maybe a little bit nervous.

“We stuck to our guns and tried to make them score their runs as slowly as possible and keep them in check. I don’t think they ever really got away from us, we stuck to our tasks manfully.

“It’s been a tough few weeks all round. In fact, even our team coach had injury issues and broke down on the way here, so we had to get a loan coach in to pick us up from Maidstone Services!

“These are unprecedented times in my term as a coach, but this is what we’ve been dealt with and we’ll all continue to front up and continue to do our jobs.”