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Kent battle hard at The Oval
Kent battle hard at The Oval

A spirited and at times dashing last wicket partnership of 82 in 14 overs between Joey Evison and Michael Hogan boosted Kent to 278 all out after they had looked in danger of being swept aside by champions Surrey at the Kia Oval. 

Hogan then had Rory Burns leg-before for 14 as Surrey replied positively with 88 for one in 21 overs’ batting before stumps, with Dom Sibley and Ollie Pope unbeaten on 35 and 20 respectively. 

Evison, the 21-year-old all-rounder signed from Nottinghamshire last summer with the enviable task of replacing Kent legend Darren Stevens, hit two sixes and nine fours in an eye-catching 77 not out from 106 balls. 

But perhaps it was veteran seamer Hogan, almost twice Evison’s age and who turns 42 at the end of May, who most shocked Surrey’s five-pronged pace attack with nine fours of his own in a punchy and defiant 48-ball knock of 43. In 258 previous first-class innings, and in his 191st appearance, career tailender Hogan has passed fifty on just four occasions, with a top score of 57. 

But, appearing at 196 for nine after Wes Agar had previously helped Evison to rally Kent from a perilous 118 for seven – after being put in to bat on a well-grassed surface – former Glamorgan stalwart Hogan matched his young partner stroke for stroke to provide unexpected late resistance and even force the tea interval to be delayed by half-an-hour. 

A good-sized Oval crowd gave Evison and Hogan a generous hand as the players walked off after a remarkable 41-over afternoon session featuring 173 runs and five wickets, but the last pair’s fun ended with the third legitimate ball after tea when Hogan, having just sliced Tom Lawes for his final four, edged to keeper Ben Foakes as he stepped away to try to carve a short ball through the offside. 

The promising Lawes, 20, who took 3 for 41, had come into the LV= Insurance County Championship Division One leaders’ team, following last week’s win against Middlesex, as a pace bowling replacement for West Indies Test ace Kemar Roach, who was released from the scheduled final game of his third stint as a Surrey overseas player to attend to a family matter back at home in Barbados. 

Hogan and Evison certainly put a dent in both Dan Worrall and Jordan Clark’s figures with Kent’s No 11 hitting some memorable straight and on drives and the impressive Evison lifting Worrall twice for legside sixes.

Clark finished with 3 for 61 and Worrall 3 for 68. Evison had earlier taken three fours in four balls off Australian seamer Sean Abbott, with a gorgeous straight drive and two dreamy clips off his pads, while Agar’s 31 was also a major factor in Kent’s recovery as conditions eased and the ball grew softer. 

Surrey, though, will be miffed that they allowed Kent to reach a competitive first innings score – winning only their third batting bonus point of the season in the process – after Worrall, Clark, Lawes and Gus Atkinson had looked like carrying all before them in the first 41 overs of the day. 

Worrall, switching to around the wicket, made the initial breakthrough by swinging one enough to clip the top of Ben Compton’s off stump when the left-hander, Kent’s leading run-scorer so far this summer, shouldered arms to go for four. 

Zak Crawley got to 19 before being surprised by Clark’s bounce and edging to third slip, where Will Jacks took a sharp chest-high catch falling to his left, and Tawanda Muyeye had also started well and reached 22 when the pacy Atkinson found a thin edge through to Foakes with his sixth ball. 

Kent were soon 80 for four, skipper Sam Billings driving loosely at Lawes to depart for a nine-ball duck, and they were in deep trouble when Jack Leaning’s 28 ended two balls after lunch – Jacks again catching well at third slip. 

Clark soon claimed his third wicket when Jordan Cox was bowled through the gate for 18, and Worrall’s post-lunch spell brought him Grant Stewart’s scalp, leg-before for nine to a delivery that, for once, did not swing away from the right-hander. 

Then, however, with growing assurance, Evison and Agar added 74 in 16 overs to frustrate Surrey and change the narrative of the day.

Agar eventually chopped on against Lawes and debutant Arafat Bhuiyan, a Bangladesh-born fast bowler with a British passport who plays in the Kent League for Blackheath, made only two before edging Worrall to first slip to set up the Evison-Hogan hour.

Surrey seamer Jordan Clark said: “We would probably have liked to restrict them to a bit less than that in their first innings but we are happy to be where we are going into day two.

“Dom Sibley and Ollie Pope have given us a lovely foundation at 88 for 1 from which to kick on from tomorrow and it will be nice to bat out there in sunshine for once this season if the forecast is correct!

“I really enjoyed taking the new ball this morning and it’s something I love to do whenever I get the chance. It was a nice pitch to bowl on in the first session or so and there was a bit of bounce too for me. 

“All five of us quicker bowlers have something a little bit different to offer so I think we complement each other pretty well, and we can also rotate things so we get periods of rest.”

Arafat Bhuiyan, the 26-year old Kent seamer who is making his first-class debut, said: “It is an unreal feeling. I have worked hard for this for the past seven or eight years and obviously I have done well in pre-season and for Kent’s second XI.

“Hopefully I can bowl well in this match but it was great to make my debut at the Oval in front of a good crowd and to bowl at two such good batters in Sibley and Pope tonight.

“I also can’t thank the South Asian Cricket Academy in Birmingham enough for accommodating me on their winter training programme ahead of this season.”