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Kent battle to secure draw
Kent battle to secure draw

A brilliant defensive display by Kent earned them a draw with Hampshire, after an engrossing final day in the LV= Insurance County Championship at Canterbury.

It was a textbook rearguard action by the hosts, who closed on 259 for four, having batted out 113 overs before the captains shook hands, even though Kent were still 18 runs behind.

Ben Compton and Zak Crawley had given Kent hope with an opening stand of 122 and although Hampshire’s hopes were ignited by a spell of three wickets for four runs, they were frustrated by Jack Leaning and Jordan Cox, whose unbeaten stand of 77 took out 43.2 overs.

Keith Barker and Liam Dawson took two wickets apiece, but it was an exasperating final day for the visitors.

The hosts will be far happier with the draw, having been bowled out for 95 in their first innings, before Hampshire posted 373 in reply.

The visitors had looked heavy favourites, but Kent were 66 without loss overnight after 26 overs’ of stoicism from Compton and a restrained Crawley.

Batting conditions looked significantly easier in a Spitfire Ground that looked and felt warm for the first time this season, and both openers eased their way to fifty, but after over an hour of resistance, Dawson made the breakthrough with two wickets in an over.

Crawley was caught behind for 56 and four deliveries later Tawanda Muyeye fell for a duck, held by Fletcha Middleton at silly point.

When Keith Barker subsequently had Compton lbw for 54 Kent were reeling on 126 for three, but Leaning and Sam Billings survived till lunch and for nearly an hour after it before the latter was lbw for 29 to Barker.

That was the only wicket to fall in the afternoon session, with Kent reaching 202 for four at tea. Cox played with admirable restraint and when Mohammad Abbas did find his edge it bisected the slip cordon and his next delivery fell just short of second slip. They were isolated alarms for the hosts.

Leaning reached 50 when he pulled Barker to square leg for a single and an exhausted Hampshire side tried nine different bowlers before giving up the ghost with nine scheduled overs remaining.

Leaning ended on 68 not out from 206 balls, with Cox unbeaten on 30 from 130.

Kent’s Sam Billings said: “It’s hugely satisfying after being bundled out in bowler-friendly conditions on Thursday. I think it was a really good toss for them to win actually there were perfect conditions and yeah, we batted horrendously on that first morning but the character shown … that was the challenge we set them.

“We know we haven’t been up to scratch with ball and bat this year, we’ve been poor and we had the odd glimmer of hope with Zak and Ben Compton with the bat but it was time for other guys to step up and we saw that today. It was really pleasing to see the character shown. It was a hell of effort against that bowling attack, regardless of the wicket to get some sort of a result out of that.

“I’m really pleased. They’re little steps, but they’re positive steps in the right direction.

(On handing over the gloves) “For me, I’ve batted at eight, seven and six this year and obviously not scored the runs I would have liked. Captaining, keeping and batting was taking its toll to be honest and for Coxy’s development as well, we value him hugely as hopefully a future England so to continue his development it gives him a great opportunity to keep wicket as well.”

“We know what a great player he is with the bat and Tawanda is the most in form batter in the club simply put. In a struggling batting unit, with a guy who’s basically scored four hundreds, we felt he was too good to leave out and he showed his class in the first innings when he played beautifully.

“The talent he possesses, he’s going to be a really exciting player going forward and you have to make those tough decisions as a leadership group. We weren’t playing well enough and we wanted to shift it around a bit. I’m not saying it’s all fixed but people have got to perform, myself included, because we’ve got some very good players coring runs in the second team.”

Kent’s Ben Compton said: “We’re very chuffed, I think Hampshire are a very strong side, so given our position in that first innings we’ll be happy to take that draw. Credit to Jack and Coxy and Zak for the way we played today.

“We were chasing the game from the first innings but we had good spells in the game like on the morning of day three, so there are good signs and hopefully we can take that into next week.

“It was a good day we batted really well. It was hard work, I think the Hampshire attack is a bloody tough one. They deserve a lot of respect and they’re right up there with the best in the county  so obviously I’m chuffed to get runs against them and help us get a draw against them.

“Our season’s been interesting, we’ve had signs and spells of real excellence so the challenge for us is to try and keep that consistency I think because when we get I right with the ball we do really well and obviously with the bat we’ve shown the right stuff.

(On Leaning and Cox) “It was perfect batting for the situation and it didn’t leave us with any awkward, horrible afternoon session wen we were losing wickets and having to scrape a draw. They were very professional.”

Hampshire’s James Vince said: “The wicket with the sun on it became slow and dead. The boys stuck at it really well and that little period this morning when we got three fairly quickly kept us up and about.

“I can’t fault the efforts, the guys have slammed away and as I say the pitch was just so lifeless in the end, that given that we lost four and a bit sessions it made it difficult to try and force ten wickets in a day.

“It was a good effort, bowling them out for 90 in the first innings and getting them in a position where we had a lead of 260. There were only two outcomes possible but on that sort of wicket we needed that time we lost to get over the line.

“I must give credit to the bowlers because we beat the edge a lot today. On a different day we would have got those wickets. If you put in you got a bit out of it and we got a bit out of it all day today.

“I’m not sure how Kyle is, he had a little bit of a niggle in his knee so we’ll see how he pulls up tomorrow, see what the medics say and whether he’s available for Thursday.

“I think if we’d not bowled well and it was down to a lack of effort or poor execution it would have been a little tougher to take but as I say the bowlers bowled really well all day and given the fact we were a bowler down and that Fuller was a bit under the weather this morning we came out and put a good shift. Given the circumstances it was a good draw.”