Kent closing on victory
Kent closing on victory

Kent are on the verge of victory in their latest County Championship match following day two of their game versus Worcestershire and require just four more wickets to win the tie.

The Spitfires registered 393 from their batting innings after 50s from Jack Leaning, Ollie Robinson, Darren Stevens and Sam Billings and the visitors closed on 91/6, 169 runs away from making Kent bat again with just four wickets in hand.

With club captain Sam Billings replacing Marcus O’Riordan in the playing XI after returning from England duty, Kent began the day on 184/4, 51 runs ahead of Worcestershire’s 133 all out.

Jack Leaning and Darren Stevens both carried on from their 50 not outs overnight, and the duo made it through the first half hour relatively untroubled and passed the 100 partnership as the Kent lead hit 60.

The 200 was up soon after, but Stevens was dismissed for 66, caught at cover off the bowling of Adam Finch.

Sam Billings played freely at number seven and Kent’s lead passed 100, and the 50 partnership was up not long after with the scoring rate increasing.

The new ball was taken after 80 overs, but the visitors were unable to find the breakthrough before lunch, with Leaning reaching the interval on 83 not out and Billings on 45 – a lead of 141.

Billings reached his half century just after lunch from 72 balls with a big six over the square leg boundary. When Jack Leaning neared his century, however, he spooned a full delivery from Dillon Pennington to cover and was on his way for 97 – hands on head and all.

Billings picked out a deep fielder on 72 as the lead neared 200, but Grant Stewart and Matt Milnes took Kent past the milestone with over 50 overs still left in the day.

Stewart was stumped for 24 running down the pitch to Josh Baker, Nathan Gilchrist edged behind for eight and James Logan was bowled for 12 as Kent posted 393 from their first innings with a lead of 260 going into tea.

The Worcestershire openers put on 19 for the first wicket before Darren Stevens bowled Daryl Mitchell for 14, knocking his off stump out the ground with a neat delivery.

The bowlers continued to toil in the Canterbury heat and Grant Stewart was rewarded when he had Jake Libby LBW for 23. Perhaps a dubious decision, but Kent had their man and were eight wickets away from victory.

Nathan Gilchrist then struck twice in two balls. First, he had Tom Fell plumb LBW for 11, then Brett D’Oliveira was caught behind first ball after several juggles from the slips and wicketkeeper.

Stevens returned to break a small partnership late on in the day as Jack Haynes was trapped LBW for 26, and Kent weren’t done there as Grant Stewart had nightwatchman Adam Finch caught behind for one.

Worcestershire made it through the remaining overs without any further damage but face a heavy task to save the game, and Kent should wrap things up on day three.

Kent’s Jack Leaning said: “I think we’re well ahead in the game. Hopefully we can have a good morning and wrap the game up. If you’d said at the start of the day that’s the position we’d been in, we’d have snapped your hand off. I think as a batting group we’ve really applied ourselves well on a pretty slow, arduous pitch against an attack that’s not really got much pace in it and got a good score on the board. Our bowlers just carried on from where they’d left off. 

“I’d have liked three more runs but it’s one of those where you can think ‘I can be happy with how I played’. I grafted hard for it, I never really felt very fluent at all really just with the way the pitch was, but if I’m going to score runs when I’m out of form it bodes well for when I’m striking it well.” 

Worcestershire’s Alan Richardson said: “I think from pretty much the start of the first day we’ve been behind the game, which has been disappointing and has made it really hard for ourselves, so we have to try and pick ourselves up and be as competitive as possible. The first two days I would say have been largely disappointing. 

“We’ve come off the back of a win so you would hope some of the guys would be confident with that, but you’ve got to keep trying to talk as positively as we can. The guys obviously know that in this game we’ve not performed. We keep trying to remind them of the basic stuff that they’ve done really well and that will hold them in good stead in the immediate future and going forward as well. You try and put as much perspective on it as possible, but it’s their life and their passion and when things don’t go well that becomes a real test.”