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Kent closing in on victory
Kent closing in on victory

A defiant rearguard action from Joe Clarke and Lyndon James gave Nottinghamshire hope of avoiding defeat in their LV= Insurance County Championship with Kent at Canterbury, after they were forced to follow on.

Nottinghamshire ended day three on 177 for five in their second innings, a deficit of just four, after Clarke and James batted through the entire evening session to finish unbeaten on 61 and 38 respectively at stumps.

Aron Nijjar had earlier claimed career-best figures of four for 67 as the visitors were bowled out for 265 in their first innings.

Michael Hogan and Joey Evison then claimed two wickets apiece after Kent asked Notts to bat again, but after reducing the visitors to 78 for five, they were frustrated during a wicketless evening session.

The visitors began day three on 219 for eight, a deficit of 227, but with the weather forecast looking ominous and with electrical storms predicted to arrive by mid-afternoon, Brett Hutton and Dane Paterson actually hung around for 40 potentially crucial minutes against Nijjar and Chahal, adding just 10 to the overnight score.

Yet having taken 14 overs out of the game, Paterson started to hit out and he skied Nijjar to Jack Leaning, who took his fifth catch of the innings.

That last wicket duo managed to bat out a further 10 overs. Asitha Fernando didn’t come with a huge reputation as a batter but he made an entertaining 14 not out that included a six off Nijjar where he dropped to one knee and plastered him over cow corner.

With the follow on target dwindling Nathan Gilchrist was handed the new ball midway through the 97th over and he had Hutton caught behind for 31 with the second ball of the 99th.

By now the skies were looking leaden and Kent immediately told the umpires the wanted Notts to bat again.

After six overs of resistance Hogan produced an inswinger that splayed Haseed Hameed’s middle and leg stumps, bowling him for seven, but although Notts were 20 for one at lunch, after it Steven Mullaney and Ben Slater looked largely unthreatened until rain forced the teams from the field at 1.58pm.

Despite a 38-minute delay Kent were so far ahead of the over rate only an over was lost and Joey Evison duly transformed the mood in the ground with two wickets in three balls.

He broke the partnership when he tempted Mullaney into a pull that was caught on the backward square leg boundary by the sub, Arafat Bhuiyan. Slater then inexplicably drove Evison straight to Hogan at mid-off.

It was then Hogan’s turn to take two wickets in an over. He bowled Matt Montgomery, off stump for six and three balls later had Tom Moores caught at first slip thanks to a stunning one-handed grab by Zak Crawley.

The visitors had slumped from 63 for one to 87 for five at tea, but Clarke and James looked far more at ease after the resumption, offering few chances and steadily eroding Kent’s lead. Clarke hit a Nijjar full toss for four to pass 50 in the final scheduled over, although to the confusion of almost everyone in the ground, play continued.

The players, at least, seemed to know but no one bothered to tell the scorers, fans, press or PA announcer, until the umpires belatedly let it be known play was going to continue till 6pm, and a few desultory overs followed.

Nottinghamshire’s Ant Botha said: “It was very needed, a quality session and it was nice for us not to lose a wicket. I think they played beautifully, I though Clarke played beautifully the whole game really.

“Joe’s a class player. There’s a reason he’s been touted around as one of the best players in the country for a while now. I think it’s taken him time to adjust between the white and red ball game, but there’s been a few things in the past two or three months that have really started to resonate with Joe. It’s exciting times for Joe.

“I think in Joe’s case there’s always been a vulnerability when starting. History suggests when he gets hundreds he gets big hundreds and he scores runs. There has been a vulnerability when starting but he’s addressed that and he’s moving in the right direction regarding that.

“Lyndon will be the first to accept that it’s been a challenging season for him. He maybe didn’t manage his expectations as well as he could have after his Lions trip but he’s recalibrated really nicely during the last month or so, in the 50-over competition. He has an unflustered nature and ability to soak up pressure when he’s at his best and it’s nice at a critical time in the game that he stepped up as he did.”

Kent’s Michael Hogan said: “For us, being in the field for a five and a half hour session was a hell of a shift for the boys, but we spoke about to day and that when we were going to send them in, there were going to be partnerships.

“It’s a good wicket, it’s offering a little bit of spin but they’re good players out there and Joe Clarke seems to have played quite well. It’s going to be a hard graft but at the moment we’d rather be in our position than theirs. There’s still a lot of work to do but we’re in a nice spot.

“I guess it’s offered a little bit of swing and the nicks have carried for us. It’s spinning a bit and both Aron and Yuzi have bowled well for us so hopefully we can get the wickets early and chase whatever they set us.

“It wasn’t a slower ball (that got Montgomery). It was just slow I think. I was a bit stiff but I’ll take it as a piece of skill, let’s call it a slower one! I’ve had a bit of time off and have been able to get rid of some bad habits that I seem to have picked up. The ball’s coming out quite nicely.”

Picture supplied by Ian Scammell.