KSN are proud to support:

Kent edge ahead at Edgbaston
Kent edge ahead at Edgbaston

Joe Denly’s compact unbeaten half-century dug Kent out of trouble and left their vital LV=Insurance County Championship tussle with Warwickshire finely poised at the halfway stage. 

Trailing by 60 on first innings, the visitors closed the second day at Edgbaston on 198 for four – 138 ahead – with Denly unbeaten on 70 (149 balls). Kent were in peril at 105 for four but the former England batter joined forces with Jordan Cox (40 not out, 80 balls) to add an unbroken 93 to keep their side in with a chance of a vital victory in a tussle between the two sides just above Division One’s bottom two. 

In the morning they bowled Warwickshire out for 225 with the impressively pacy Navdeep Saini taking five for 72 on his debut. Four of the Indian’s wickets were among seven catches in the innings for wicketkeeper Sam Billings. It was Billings’ second haul of seven, though the Kent record remains eight (Steve Marsh v Middlesex at Lord’s in 1991). 

Sam Hain defied discomfort from a sore back to lead Warwickshire’s batting. He was last to fall, for 99 (215 balls), as the home side acquired a lead that was useful rather than commanding. 

During an overcast morning, Warwickshire made bitty progress as Hain battled to cajole runs from the tail. As Kent’s refurbished seam attack plugged away manfully, the last four wickets were all snaffled by Billings. Danny Briggs edged Matt Henry and when Henry Brookes and Craig Miles nicked Saini, it was left to number 11 Olly Hannon-Dalby to try to escort his team to a batting point and his partner to 100. The former happened but the latter did not as Hain bottom-edged a cut at Matt Milnes. 

Second time round, Kent again started falteringly and lost both openers before the deficit was erased. Ben Compton edged Hannon-Dalby to third slip and Zak Crawley chipped Will Rhodes to mid-wicket. 

Daniel Bell-Drummond collected 27 from 44 balls but fell lbw to Hannon-Dalby and when Craig Miles hit Jack Leaning’s off-stump with a beauty, Kent were 105 for four – just 45 ahead. 

Denly and Cox played with composure and patience to first stabilise the innings and then accelerate gently against the softening ball as the pitch appeared to start to flatten. Denly continued his return to form by reaching 50 in 92 balls and celebrated with a straight six off Briggs. Cox batted impressively for the second time in the match and that the sixth-wicket pair stayed intact to resume in the morning tilted the balance of power in this fluctuating contest narrowly Kent’s way.   

Kent captain Sam Billings said: “Of course we would like to be in a different position but the fight that Coxy and Joey showed there in that last session has wrestled a little bit of momentum back for us. They batted beautifully. We just need to keep on fighting and scrapping for every single run to get us a healthy enough lead to really put them under pressure.

“What that number is, we’ll have to find out but we are looking hopefully at a 250-plus lead. But we are going to have to start again in the morning and bat really well. I think that would out us right in contention in this game. We will start off again tomorrow and hopefully these guys can keep going and building.”

Warwickshire batter Sam Hain, who scored 99, said: 

“The game is right in the balance. We are two wickets away from their bowlers so if we can get a couple early tomorrow it’s ‘game on.’ The pitch is still doing a bit so it’s up to us to create some chances and take them and then get our batting heads on. 

“It’s certainly the greenest pitch we have had at Edgbaston this season and I think that makes for very good games of cricket. This one looks like it’s going to be a result match one way or the other so fingers crossed we are on the right side of it. 

“I was pleased to get some runs though obviously a little bit frustrated not to get one more. I certainly felt that it was a good test. They have a strong attack and with their back-up bowlers they are a high quality attack. We know that but whatever they set will have players capable of chasing it.”