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Kent battle to earn Oval draw
Kent battle to earn Oval draw

Daniel Bell-Drummond added another fighting 107 not out to his first innings 102 as Kent battled to a draw against LV= Insurance County Championship leaders Surrey.

It is the first time the 28-year-old Bell-Drummond has scored two hundreds in a first-class match. The loss of 14 overs to bad weather at the start of the final day was frustrating for Surrey, but the Kia Oval pitch remained a good one for batting throughout and hands were shaken at 5.48pm when Kent had taken their overnight second innings 121 for no wicket to 361 for 4.

Surrey, however, have still stretched their lead at the top of Division One to 16 points, as a result of second-placed Hampshire’s defeat at Essex in this round, and third-placed Lancashire’s draw at Gloucestershire.

Surrey took 16 points from this match, and Kent 12. 

Bell-Drummond batted for a total of almost nine hours in the game, resisting in Kent’s second innings for 195 balls and 284 minutes after coming in when opener Ben Compton was leg-before to Sam Curran in the final day’s second over. 

Play should have started at 11.50am, following early morning rain, but just as the players reached the middle another shower meant a further five-minute delay.

Amusingly, the Surrey team remained on the field as the umpires ordered the pitch to be covered and liaised with Oval groundstaff, while Kent’s openers Compton and Joe Denly marched off back into their dressing room. 

With a minimum of 82 overs now scheduled from 11.55am, Denly – who resumed on 63 – was soon flashing Dan Worrall’s pacy outswing away through the gully area for four but Compton, on 47 overnight, had only added a single to his score when Curran skidded one into the left-hander’s pads through an attempted work to leg. 

Denly, on 69, was then beaten by a full, in-slanting ball from Worrall that flicked the inside of his front pad before hammering into his back pad to make another upraised umpire’s finger a formality. 

At 128 for two, Kent were suddenly under severe pressure, with the serene progress of Denly and Compton the evening before, when the openers had added 121 in 44 overs, seeming a distant memory. 

Bell-Drummond, however, was joined by Jack Leaning in a stand of 107 either side of lunch that did much to guide Kent to safety. The pair, who had also added 161 together in Kent’s first innings, were largely untroubled although Bell-Drummond, on 54, did edge Curran just short of second slip – the ball flying away for one of the batsman’s 14 fours. 

Surrey tried seven bowlers in all, but although Leaning was bowled off stump for 43 by a perfect inswinger by Curran, soon after the second new ball was taken at 219 for two, they could not dislodge Bell-Drummond. 

Jordan Cox, on 27, fell for a trap set by Gus Atkinson when he pulled high to deep square leg but Surrey’s last chance of forcing a victory probably came on 301 for four – with Kent’s overall deficit still 41 and with more than 22 overs remaining – when Ollie Robinson, on 12, fended a short ball from Conor McKerr just short of Ben Geddes diving forward at a deepish short leg. 

Geddes was then moved a couple of yards forward but no other opportunity came his way and, fittingly, the game ended soon after Bell-Drummond had completed his hundred, with Robinson finishing unbeaten on 39. 

Surrey assistant coach Azhar Mahmood said: “The bowlers gave everything they had for more than 200 overs and although unfortunately we didn’t win the game we are happy enough to take the 16 points from the draw.

“There were also a lot of plus points from the match for us. Ben Geddes and Sam Curran both scored their first championship hundreds, with Sam’s the first of his career, and Hashim Amla also got back into form with his 124. Will Jacks hit his first hundred of the season too.

“With the ball I thought young Tom Lawes did absolutely brilliantly on debut, taking four wickets in their first innings and bowling well throughout. He certainly showed just what depth we have in our squad at the moment.”

Kent head coach Matt Walker said: “I think it was an outstanding effort from us to draw this match. Even after day one we knew we were not in a position to win it, and we were staring down the barrel from about three-quarters of the way through the first day to be honest, with them getting to 445 for 5 by the end of that opening day.

“It was also a difficult task for us when we followed on but I thought Ben Compton and Joe Denly’s 121-run stand on the third evening was critical and, as for Daniel Bell-Drummond, he has batted superbly in both innings.

“He was frustrated to get out soon after reaching his hundred in the first innings but then to come out again second time around and bat like that just shows his strength of character and it’s great to see him back to his best in red-ball cricket.”

Picture supplied by Keith Gillard.