Kent battle to Canterbury draw
Kent battle to Canterbury draw

Harry Finch scored a fantastic century on day four of Kent’s latest County Championship game as a depleted Spitfires side held on for a draw against Sussex.

The game went to the last two balls of play on the final day after a late flurry of Spitfires wickets, but Kent got over the line as spoils were shared in Canterbury.

Finch was the star of the show despite contributions from Dan Lincoln and Harry Podmore, and stole the headlines with an impressive showing against his old club.

Sussex were 277/3 overnight, leading by 293 runs ahead of a probable declaration. The aim would have been to score as many runs as possible before putting Kent in for the final innings of the match.

Oli Carter was the first man to fall on the day, caught on the boundary by Marcus O’Riordan off the bowling of Matt Quinn for 18 when trying to accelerate the scoring.

Sussex passed 300 and Travis Head and James Coles took the attack to Harry Podmore and Quinn. Eventually, Sussex declared with a lead of 348, with a minimum of 86 overs left in the game.

Ollie Robinson had Joe Gordon caught behind off the fourth ball of the innings for a duck, but as it looked like Sussex smelt blood Marcus O’Riordan and former Sussex man Harry Finch brough some calm to the crease.

O’Riordan was dropped twice – once in the slips and once at short leg – but he and Finch played nicely to see the Spitfires to 52/1 at lunch, requiring 292 more runs to win.

The Kent duo continued to score and look comfortable after the interval and navigated the first hour of the afternoon session well, with Finch reaching his 50 from 91 balls with six fours to his name. 

Just after the hour mark however, O’Riordan was run out after a mix-up in the middle between the two batsmen. They collided, and O’Riordan seemed to have made his ground at the non-striker’s end, but a bullet throw from Tom Haines knocked the stumps down and the Kent all-rounder was sent packing despite his protests.

New batsman and Kent captain Heino Kuhn didn’t last too long, bowled for four by the impressive Jack Carson, and the score was 139/3 at tea with all results still possible in the game.

Dan Lincoln impressed after a duck in the first innings, reaching 41 in a partnership of 86 with Harry Finch, the pick of his shots a lofted six down the ground. The day will however be remembered mostly for Finch’s fourth first-class century, coming against the club that released him at the end of 2020.

He reached the milestone with a flick off his hips for four and the emotion was clear to see as he lifted his helmet, helping his depleted side in a game they can all be proud of.

Harry Houillon made nine before he fell to Jack Carson, exposing Kent’s tail with a risk of a home defeat still in the equation.

Harry Podmore however played calmly but with intent to finish not out on 36, marshalling the tail after Finch was caught down the leg side for an impressive 115 off the very first delivery with the new ball, bowled by Sean Hunt.

Hamidullah Qadri was given out to a dubious LBW decision for four as Sussex began to smell blood, but Bailey Wightman and Podmore saw out play until the final two balls, where the captains shook hands on a draw to result in Kent finishing fifth in group three, ending up in division three of the County Championship when the competition resumes later this summer.

Kent’s Harry Finch said: “I’ve played in quite a few games like this and if you go from the first ball trying to chase it you can end up losing the game, so for us it was taking it each session at a time. I think once we got to tea the wicket started to go up and down, started to spin a bit more.”

“We were just going to play for that first hour and then we did lose a couple of wickets, so that put it (the chase) on hold. Obviously you’d love to try and chase that down and win in front of the crowd, but I think we made it a more interesting than we should have done at the end there.”

“I was pretty gutted when I got out because if I think if we’d gotten through those three overs with me and Podders we probably would have just shaken hands.”

“I certainly wasn’t expecting (a call-up) when I was playing club cricket (for Hastings Priory) on Saturday. I just played an awful shot, had come off and was quite angry with myself. Then I got a bit of good news.”

“I wasn’t expecting it at all so it was a nice bonus. It’s just nice to take my chance in this game. I wasn’t really thinking about the game (on Saturday night), it was more about getting the paperwork done. I had to rush back to Mum’s get my clothes and sort everything out.” 

Sussex’s Ollie Robinson said: “I thought it was a good four days for us really, we put out a side, I think the average age was 20, so to do that and almost get the win I thought was a really good effort from everyone involved.”

“(Ali Orr) has really impressed me, he looks like a good all-round player, very solid and he reminds me a little bit of Alastair Cook, he’s very different when he bats and sort of in his own world, his own bubble and nothing really fazes him. “

“Jamie Atkins charged in for me this week, he’s got that natural ability to take wickets. He got three in the first spell which got us back in the game really.”

“I never felt like they would get over 300 on that pitch against our attack so we just went with 86, 87 overs really regardless of runs. We got an early one, but it’s a shame we couldn’t have got another.”