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Gloucestershire take charge at Canterbury
Gloucestershire take charge at Canterbury

Gloucestershire seized the initiative on day one as the bottom two teams in LV= Insurance County Championship Division One faced-off at Canterbury.

The rock-bottom visitors recovered from being put in and reduced to 46 for three to reach stumps on 388 for seven and eyeing maximum batting points for just the second time this summer.

They were indebted largely to an imperious 125 from Glenn Phillips, in his maiden First Class appearance of the summer, with able support in the form of a half-century from Miles Hammond and Oli Price’s career-best unbeaten 48, compiled on his 21st birthday.

It was only the second time Gloucestershire have passed 280 in their first innings at the seventh time of asking this season and left Kent with plenty to do if they are to force a result in a game considered crucial in the battle to avoid the drop in Division One.

On a warm day, Kent won the toss and raised a few eyebrows when they elected to bowl first, however they were soon in charge with Matt Milnes claiming three early wickets to reduce the visitors to 46 for three.

Fresh from their Friday night fireworks in the Vitality Blast at Hove, the visitors raced out of the blocks, tucking into some loose bowling from Kent’s new signing, New Zealand seamer Jacob Duffy in particular.

On a day when his side hit 56 boundaries, George Scott set the tone with a clip off his hips to the rope from the very first ball, and there were already 35 runs on the board from 34 balls when Milnes had Scott trapped leg before for 27.

Making the most of the early conditions, with some cloud cover and a touch of movement, Milnes looked a constant threat thundering in from the Nackington Road End and five deliveries later he had James Bracey (1) caught behind by Sam Billings, making his first red ball appearance since his Test appearance in Hobart in January.

Milnes claimed his third scalp when he had Chris Dent, back in the Shire side after injury, lbw for 11 to leave the visitors teetering on 46 for three.

After taking 105 wickets across the past three County Championship seasons at less than 25, the right-armer had claimed only four wickets in his five County Championship appearances so far this season at an average north of 120.

Only 43 scoring shots were played in the first session but the visitors converted them into a lunchtime score of 114 for three, thanks in large part to 19 fours in the opening session.

It was Miles Hammond and Phillips who steadied the Gloucestershire ship and after the interval they brought up three figures for the fourth wicket from only 154 deliveries.

Hammond, who averaged less than 26 in his 11 County Championship innings this season, brought up his half-century from 90 deliveries while Phillips followed suit from just 71 balls soon after.

Kent got the breakthrough they were desperately seeking when Grant Stewart got Hammond to feather one to Billings for an eye-catching 66, featuring a dozen fours, to break a stand of 138 with Phillips and make it 184 for four.

Phillips was unperturbed and reached his seventh First Class century from 124 deliveries, which featured 13 fours and a delicious straight six off South African spinner George Linde. The 25-year-old Kiwi international had made only 109 runs across six First Class innings with Gloucestershire last summer but blew past that number in style on a scorching Canterbury afternoon.

He and skipper Ryan Higgins added a breezy 69 for the fifth wicket to steer their side past 250 before Duffy – switching to the Nackington Road end where he tightened up significantly – claimed his first Kent scalp, getting Higgins (24) to edge to Billings, who had missed the chance to stump him moments earlier. Duffy once played club cricket in Gloucestershire for Bristol-based Bishopston CC.

Batting on his 21st-birthday, Oli Price helped the score on to 288 for five before Phillips eventually holed-out to his tumbling countryman Duffy off the bowling of Stewart for 125.

Tom Price joined his younger brother in the middle and the runs continued to flow until Tom mis-timed a pull to Jack Leaning in the deep for a brisk 39 to end a 62-run partnership and give Duffy his second scalp.

Zafar Gohar cracked his side’s 50th four of the day, becoming the eighth man to find the ropes as the shadows lengthened and is unbeaten overnight on 24 after sharing an unbroken 38 for the eighth wicket with Oli Price.

Wicketkeeper-batter Ollie Robinson was awarded Kent cap No.222 during the lunch interval.

Glenn Mitchell, who scored 125 as Gloucestershire reached 388 for seven at stumps on day one against Kent at Canterbury.

“It’s a really good day for us. We were going to bat first anyway which is a great mindset to go into the middle with, seeing as how we were sent in. 

“They bowled really well up front and took three early poles but Miles Hammond really showed guts and we carried on playing our strokes the whole way through the day. I think it was 4.1 an over for the day which showed the intent we had and that was the key for us.

“I was literally taking it one ball at a time and trying to make the right choice to that ball and doing it for as long as possible. Today just happened to be my day. 

“If you can get on top of a spinner and have a couple of men out on the boundary it gives you that feelinng of space. For me it’s always my plan to get after spinners and get on top early. It worked well today with George Linde and put him off his line and length a little bit, though he came back really well and bowled well at the end.

“Partnerships in the lower order are key to four day cricket and there was some good work from Tom and Oli Price and Zafar Gohar towards the end.”

Ollie Robinson, who will open the batting for Kent in their reply.

“I felt like we started the day well. It was a bit of deja vu from our home games this season, we got three early wickets and then weren’t able to break that middle partnership. They got away from us a little bit but we clawed it back a little bit towards the end.

“It’s a simple one. We need to knock them over early in the morning and try and put a big one on the board and then hopefully bowl them out again. That’s the plan. The blueprint for the game has been dictated to us. We have to get 500-600 to stand a chance of winning.

“I thought the boys stuck at it well to get the wickets we did.

“It’s a big game, we need a positive result and we need to pick up our points but if the pitch doesn’t allow us to get a positive result then so be it. We’re going to give ourselves the best possible chance.

“I’m back up top, it’s a good opportunity for me. If you get yourself in it’s a pretty nice top to bat on so hopefully I can get in in the morning and cash-in later on.”

Robinson was handed Kent cap No.222 at the lunch interval and said: “I have poured my heart and soul into this club since I was 10 or 11 so it’s nice to have that 13 years rewarded, you go down in Kent’s history which is a lovely moment and it was nice to share it with my family too. It was a very proud day.”