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Kent escape with Canterbury draw
Kent escape with Canterbury draw

Kent escaped with a draw in their LV= Insurance County Championship game with Nottinghamshire after nearly imploding in pursuit of a target of 168.

The hosts were grateful for former Notts players Joey Evison and Ben Compton, who blocked for nearly 20 overs after Asitha Fernando took three quick wickets to help reduce them to 59 for five. Kent were 86 for six when the captains shook hands.

On a final day at Canterbury that veered between tedium and extreme tension, Notts were bowled out for 348 in their second innings, after being forced to follow on. A game that Kent looked likely to win and then seemed to be heading for a draw ignited in the final session. When Joe Clarke and Brett Hutton came together in the day’s seventh over, Notts were still trailing Kent’s first innings score of 446 by one, with just three second innings wickets remaining.

Clarke batted for 277 balls to make 141, and he put 148 for the eighth wicket with Hutton, who made a career-best knock of 84. By the time their partnership was broken Notts were 147 ahead and when Yuzvendra Chahal then took two wickets in as many balls it set up a fraught finale. Having dominated for most of the first three days Kent couldn’t resist the target and ended up enduring a nerve-shredding final hour.

Nottinghamshire began the day on 177 for five in their second innings and looking like they might not survive the first hour.

After a start delayed till 11.20am by rain, Kent took the new ball as soon as it became available and Michael Hogan used it to take two wickets from as many balls. His fourth delivery got rid of Lyndon James for 39 after he edged him to Jack Leaning at second slip, ending a stand of 102 and Calvin Harrison went lbw to the next delivery.

Hutton took a single from the hat-trick ball to bring the scores level and played like he was determined to set Kent a target, advancing to 48 not out at lunch, at which point it was 235 for seven, a lead of 54.

He reached 50 with a single from Nathan Gilchrist and as the game began to drift away from Kent, Clarke drove Hogan for four to reach three figures.

There were few chances but the game sparked to life when Hutton blocked a delivery from Nijjar and Clarke hared halfway down the wicket before he realised his partner hadn’t moved.

Chahal ran him out out by a yard.

Still bruised by their defeat at Middlesex, Nottinghamshire looked unlikely to declare and seemed comfortable enough at 348 for eight at tea, but Chahal had Paterson caught by Daniel Bell-Drummond for five with the fourth ball of the evening session and he wrapped up the innings two balls later when Asitha Fernando was caught by Zak Crawley for a duck.

Kent were scenting what would have been only their third red-ball win of the season, but they approached the chase as if they were playing Blast cricket instead of a modest five-an-over.

Crawley was sent out to open alongside Tawanda Muyeye instead of his regular partner Ben Compton, but after crunching Paterson for four he hit the next delivery straight to James at deep square leg.

Fernando then had Bell-Drummond caught for four by Harrison at slip, Jack Leaning was run out for six chasing a single that existed only in his head and Muyeye tried to hook Fernando and fell to an acrobatic Tom Moores grab.

With Kent reeling on 52 for four Compton was sent out to drop anchor, but Fernando produced a jaffa to send Harry Finch’s off stump flying for seven.

When Joey Evison joined Compton, with a minimum 19.1 overs remaining they made no attempt to chase the runs. After an hour’s resistance the latter was caught by Ben Slater off Matt Montgomery, but Nijjar and Evison just about clung on. Kent take 12 points and Nottinghamshire eight.

Notts’ Joe Clarke said: “It was mental. When the last wicket fell for us I thought there was time for them to chase the runs, but credit to our bowlers and the lads for showing some fight.

“It quickly changed and we were on top towards the end. I think the lads should be proud that we’ve got a result here, although there are obviously things that we need to look at and improve.

“When Brett walked out I honestly believed that I could bat with him and that he could stick around for quite a long time. He got to 40 quite quickly and that sort of shocked me but he’s a fight and wants to dig and do as much as he can to help the team.

“I’m also happy that Asitha got a few wickets as well. Every indication we’ve had from Sri Lanka is that he has the heart of a lion.

(On batting for eight hours) “I think I’m just a fighter to be honest. I don’t give them much, I was fully in the zone and I knew the job and that was to bat for as long as I could. When I’m like that I feel like I’m a hard person to get out. I wish I could do it more. When the going gets tough it brings out the best in me.”

Kent’s Matt Walker said: “It’d be easy to reflect on those last couple of hours and be disappointed but ultimately we’ve played some really good cricket over these fours days.

“We’re the team that really from ball one set out to win this game of cricket. We were positive in everything we did and the way we batted and bowled in the first innings.

“The follow on was a really positive move to try and win this game as we knew there was some weather around. We gave it everything and tried to win the game on the last day but unfortunately it didn’t quite go to plan.

“We lost too many wickets too early and had to put the anchor down, but I thought we were excellent all week. There were some good individual performances but as a team, watching how they threw their bodies on the line I thought was good and impressive.

“We tried everything. I think the spinners were excellent and the seamers get going. Nathan Gilchrist had a pretty sore hamstring and he just gritted his teeth and gave us everything. Hoges was outstanding but Clarke played a master-stroke innings, fair play to him and showed the quality he has as a cricketer. He was a real thorn in our side. Brett Hutton I suppose was the one, I think we were Brett Hutton away from winning this game. If we’d nipped him out early we probably would have won.

“There was no doubt in our minds that we were going to go for it but unfortunately it didn’t quite pan out. This should give us a lot of confidence.

“You can’t pay it safe and you can’t keep looking over your shoulder looking at what Middlesex and Northants are doing, that’s not how you operate at this stage of the season. You go out to win every game.”