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Kent capitulate to Oval defeat
Kent capitulate to Oval defeat

Tom Lawes dismissed both Zak Crawley and Sam Billings in dramatic fashion early on day three, finishing with a career-best 5 for 22 to set up a crushing Surrey victory by ten wickets against outclassed Kent at the Kia Oval. 

Crawley fell for 34, adding just three runs to his overnight score, and Billings bagged an agonizing pair as Kent slumped to 141 all out, leaving Surrey needing just 58 to complete their fourth win in six LV= Insurance County Championship matches this season. 

They got there at 58 without loss from 11.3 overs, ending the match just before the scheduled lunch interval, with Rory Burns reverse-slapping Jack Leaning’s off spin for six over third man in a run-a-ball 36 not out.

Dom Sibley was unbeaten on 16, and the 22-point haul strengthens champions Surrey’s position on top of the Division One table. 

For Kent it is a third defeat of a summer which for them looks like bringing only a desperate fight against championship relegation, and it took Surrey only 16 overs on the third morning to take the last six Kent second innings wickets for 61 runs and give themselves their modest victory target. 

All-rounder Lawes, still only 20, underlined his huge potential by adding the scalps of Billings, Crawley and Joey Evison to those of Tawanda Muyeye and Leaning late on day two after Kent had resumed on 80 for four. 

It was his first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket, and Lawes – who broke through into Surrey’s senior side midway through last season – now has 36 red-ball wickets from ten matches at an average of 20.22 in a stellar start to his career.

His spell this morning was 6.2-1-20-3, adding to the 2.4-1-2-2 of the previous evening. Billings, who initially faced the final two balls of Lawes’ third over when play resumed – Leaning having been bowled by what was the last ball of day two – only lasted six balls in all before edging a sharp lifter to keeper Ben Foakes.

The Kent captain is enduring a miserable season so far, with only 92 runs from ten championship innings and a top score of 31. 

Lawes, having struck in his first full over of the morning, then removed Crawley in his second full over. The England Test opener pushed defensively at a fine ball which left him just enough to take the edge on its way into Ollie Pope’s hands at second slip. 

And another excellent piece of bowling soon earned Lawes his third scalp of the day, a pacy inswinging near-yorker plucking out Evison’s off stump on five to leave Kent 107 for seven. 

Sean Abbott, replacing Dan Worrall at the Vauxhall End, then had Jordan Cox caught down the legside by Foakes for 15, fending off a short ball, and it was left to Jordan Clark to replace Lawes at the Pavilion End and apply the finishing touches to Kent’s sad rout. 

Clark’s fourth ball saw Grant Stewart (6) edge to Pope at second slip and last man Michael Hogan lost his off stump, wafting at Clark in the big seamer’s next over, to go for 2. 

It gave Clark second innings figures of 3 for 36, and six wickets in the match, while Abbott took 2 for 17 in what was a brilliant and relentless performance throughout by Surrey’s five-pronged pace attack. 

Tom Lawes, whose career-best 5 for 22 also gave him outstanding match figures of 8 for 63, said:

“It was a very special moment for me to get my first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket and it is something I’ll never forget. 

“In particular, walking off the field at the end of the Kent innings, in front of the Oval pavilion and crowd and with all my teammates around me, will be a wonderful memory for me in years to come. 

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to get on to bowl last night, so when I was thrown the ball I just wanted to steam in and try to make something happen. There was a real intensity out there in the field when Sean (Abbott) and I took those three wickets in the last three overs of the second day, and we took that into this morning too. 

“That’s how we want to play our cricket, and we reckon there is still more to come from us as a team so we will be looking to keep on improving during the rest of the season. But this win is a great way to finish this first block of six championship games and we have played this block as we planned to do. It sets us up for the next two matches in June, which will be played with a Kookaburra ball.”

Kent head coach Matt Walker said: “I think probably the last three overs last night when we lost three wickets was the big difference in this match. Up until then we were right in the game but to go from 78 for one, after Tawanda and Zak had batted really well, to 80 for four at the close of play was when things changed.

“It’s a very disappointing loss but Tom Lawes was outstanding with the ball this morning and it was a bit of a procession in the end. That’s very frustrating for us because it’s been a pattern of the season so far. We play well in patches but then have a period where we lose a few wickets quickly or bowl poorly for a spell.

“In this match we fought hard to get ourselves back in it with the bat in the first innings and got a reasonable total on the board, and then we had them 200 for seven and we were actually looking at perhaps getting a first innings lead. But Sean Abbott batted very well and Gus Atkinson came in to take it away from us and they ended up getting a bigger lead than we would have liked.

“But Tawanda and Zak were outstanding to get us back almost level last night, before those three late wickets. It all happened very quickly, last night and then this morning, and so it’s a tough defeat to take even though Surrey are obviously a very strong side, the champions and top of Division One again in this first part of this season.”