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Kent battle for Worcestershire draw
Kent battle for Worcestershire draw

Kent survived some occasional alarms to bat out a draw with Worcestershire on the final day of their Vitality County Championship at Canterbury.

The captains shook hands just after five o’clock, with Kent on 146 for four in their second innings, still 65 runs behind Worcestershire’s mammoth first innings core of 618 for seven declared.

Ben Gibbon claimed two for 38, but the visitors used nine different bowlers during Kent’s second innings and failed to break down some stiff middle order resistance, spearheaded by Harry Finch who was unbeaten on 48.

Earlier Jack Leaning made an unbeaten 179 as Kent were all out for 407 in their first innings, still 211 behind, with Joe Leach taking three for 37 and Matthew Waite three for 51.

A draw was widely expected before the start of play, after three days that begged a number of questions.

There are many worse places to be than the St. Lawrence on day four of a meandering county championship game, but when the balance is tilted so far in favour of the batters, just how useful an exercise is it when it comes to preparing battle-hardened, sub-continent ready cricketers? And is a neutered four-day game just collateral damage?

Worcestershire didn’t bowl at all badly, but took just six wickets during the whole of day three. Kent’s analysts said their bowlers were hitting exactly the same lengths they’d hit during the win at Old Trafford, but it took them five sessions to take seven poles.

There was competing pessimism beforehand. Away pessimists thought the pitch would win, while their home counterparts worried about mental lapses: you shouldn’t lose 12 wickets in a day on this surface, but that didn’t mean you wouldn’t.

The visitors needed an early breakthrough but Nathan Gilchrist lasted for nearly an hour on his way to 12, before he eventually tried to hook Joe Leach and was caught, at the third attempt, by Matthew Waite on the square leg boundary, perhaps lured by some inventive field settings.

When Kashif Ali bowled Matt Parkinson for two to wrap up the innings, Leaning was left unbeaten

after a 403-ball innings that lasted nine-hours and 48 minutes, the second-longest recorded innings by time in Kent history after David Fulton’s ten and a half hours vs Yorkshire at Maidstone in 1998.

There were still 73 overs remaining however and the loss of Zak Crawley early in Kent’s second innings suggested the game might yet flicker into life.

Crawley lasted 15 balls before Jason Holder had him caught behind, leaving the England man with just 67 runs from six sub-optimal county innings this season.

It was 18 for one at lunch, during which the temperature dropped and clouds emerged. Gibbon then strangled Compton down the leg side for 11 and Nathan Smith had Joe Denly lbw for 10, reducing Kent to three for 36 with 55.4 overs remaining.

Daniel Bell-Drummond and Harry Finch calmed home nerves by surviving till tea, at which point it was 104-3 but visiting hopes flared again when Gibbon clean bowled the former, off-stump, for 41.

Joey Evison joined Finch however and took the sting out of the contest, batting for nearly an hour and facing 47 balls on his way to an unbeaten eight.

When the occasional leggie Rob Jones became the ninth bowler Worcestershire to try and break through it was a sign the end was nigh and the teams eventually shook hands with potentially 16 overs remaining.

Worcestershire’s Alan Richardson said:

(On Josh Baker)

“No one quite knew what to expect and certainly the minute’s applause and the moment we spent thinking about Josh was really difficult for the players and the staff. I look back at them now and I was really proud of the boys and how we handled that. Gareth spent about it at the end of day one and for Jake and Gareth to go out on that first day was an incredible effort.

“I always believed that the togetherness of the squad would be one of our huge strengths throughout the season and we needed that more than ever throughout those four days but certainly at 11am on Friday morning and we did it brilliantly well.

“Josh will always be close to us. We’ll always be close to him and it was fantastic for his parents, Paul and Lisa, his Mum and Dad, were here on Saturday and Sunday and for us to spend a bit of time with them as well.

“It’s one of those milestones since Josh’s passing that was always going to test us and I was incredibly proud of the boys and how they deal with it.

(On the result)

“As a performance I think it was something the boys should be very proud of. We put in an incredible shift over four days and in the first innings with the bat we played really well. We tried to apply as much pressure as we could to take 20 wickets on a pretty docile surface but we gave ourselves a chance and the boys should be proud of how they went about their business.

“We talk about the bowling unit and everyone working in partnerships, but as a fielding group that the energy they provided throughout on some petty hot days when not much happened for long periods of time was brilliant.

“It was really difficult to take wickets on it and we knew we’d have to be patient and they did that really well. We set some really good fields throughout. It was a real team effort with the ball so we should take a lot of heart and confidence from it.”

Kent’s Harry Finch said: “It was quite good fun, it was enjoyable but you don’t really want to be in those sorts of situations at the end. Daniel (Bell-Drummond) is great to bat with and I think he’s the leading run scorer now, but the main thing for me was to keep your intent up and keep looking to score because obviously if we got past them we could drag the game out.

(On Leaning): “If you’ve been watching the last two or three games that score’s been coming. He’s looked really good and starting to look back to how he was last year. That score was always going to come and it’s just so impressive the way he stuck to a plan all day.

“On a personal note I was frustrated with how I got out in the first innings, I was trying to force it and it wasn’t really that sort of wicket, it was about staying patient and waiting for the ball to come into your area. He did that all day and had a bit of dodgy hand, so the way he gutsed it out and kept batting was unbelievable.

(On the result) “There were a few nerves floating around. We knew we were going to get put back in and then you’re naturally nervous or excited or whatever you want to call it, there’s a little bit of relief but in that’s situation it’s more that we’ve come away with a positive.”

“Worcestershire were outstanding. They come into this game in an incredibly difficult situation and one we all sympathised with. We weren’t sure how they were going to be this week and I thought they were unbelievable. It was very emotional on that first day, and the skill they showed this week was really, really good.

“For us it was a really good rear guard action. We still managed to get 410 and on any other day you’d take that.

(On his keeping) “Last year was my first year keeping wicket. I really surprised myself last week with hat happened (the viral stumping at Lancashire) but I’ve been working really hard on it, practising day in and day out with Nick Wilton, the keeping coach here. I had the chance t chat with Ben Foakes the other week when we played Surrey.”

“I sat down with him in the canteen for 20 to 25 minutes and that was amazing. We had a proper chat about keeping and what he does and what he looks to do and the next game I got that stumping so it obviously helped! I’m really enjoying it, it’s another way to try and get in the game and impact the game.”