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Kent fighting hard at The Oval
Kent fighting hard at The Oval

Tom Lawes took four wickets on his LV= Insurance County Championship debut as leaders Surrey forced Kent to follow on at The Kia Oval.

The 19-year-old, swinging the ball consistently against the right-handers, sparked a collapse by taking three for 10 in the space of 18 balls either side of lunch after Kent, fortified by Daniel Bell-Drummond’s century, had been 216 for two.

They were bowled out for 331 with Lawes, a product of Surrey’s academy and Cranleigh School, finishing with four for 51.

Kent followed on with a hefty deficit of 342 but openers Ben Compton and Joe Denly dug in to reach 121 for 0 at stumps. It was an impressive effort although they still trail by 221 with work to do on the final day.

Bell-Drummond and Jack Leaning had put on 161 for the third wicket in 54 overs to raise Kent’s hopes of saving the match on what remains a good batting surface.

When he reached 93, Bell-Drummond passed 7,000 first-class runs and a clip through mid-wicket off Gus Atkinson shortly afterwards took him to his 14th first-class century. He would have been disappointed to have got out in the manner he did, slicing a long hop from Will Jacks to backward point for 102, which included ten fours.

Lawes could have claimed Leaning twice in the same over before eventually dismissing the Kent captain for 75. He failed to hold on to a tough return catch diving low to his left in his follow through before Dan Worrall dropped a straightforward chance at slip three balls later.

But the teenager’s perseverance was rewarded with two wickets in two overs as Leaning played on and Ollie Robinson drove airily and was caught at third slip. From 256 for three, Kent proceeded to lose their last seven wickets for 75 in 27 overs.

George Linde played on to Lawes in the third over after lunch and he had his fourth wicket when Matt Milnes wafted outside off stump and was caught behind.

Conor McKerr picked up two wickets when he switched to the Vauxhall End as Kent’s last four fell for 15 runs. Jordan Cox, who played well for his 47, clipped a leg-stump half-volley to mid-wicket and after Jacob Duffy was caught behind to give Atkinson his first wicket, McKerr finished things off courtesy of a superb reflex catch by Ben Geddes at short leg off Jas Singh’s firm push.

There were 44 overs left in the day when Kent began their second innings, but Surrey were unable to find a breakthrough. Jacks was introduced in the ninth over but there was little turn for the off-spinner while Compton coped well when Surrey’s seamers tested him against the short ball.

The left-hander passed 1,000 Championship runs when he got to eight and Denly reached his highest score of an injury-affected season as Surrey’s seven bowlers toiled in vain for a breakthrough.

Surrey’s Tom Lawes, who took four wickets on Championship debut, said:

“It’s been quite a surreal week to be called up to make my T20 debut and then my Championship debut, an awesome few days. 

“I’m so pleased to get four wickets. Sometimes you feel in good rhythm and the ball is coming out nicely and that’s what it was like, and it was nice to then pick up a few poles. Hopefully I can do it again tomorrow. 

“We knew it would be a bit of a grind in the dirt today and Kent batted nicely in that final session but they are still 230 odd behind. If we can stay patient as a bowling group hopefully the wickets will come tomorrow.”

Kent batsman Daniel Bell-Drummond, who made 102, said: “We will take a lot of confidence from how well Ben [Compton] and Joe [Denly] batted in that long final session, they played really nicely. 

“It was a struggle at first but I became more fluent as my innings went on. It’s disappointing I couldn’t go on but I’m happy with that hundred. I’m enjoying batting at number three but things change quickly in cricket so I’m just taking it day by day and enjoying my cricket.”

Picture supplied by Keith Gillard.