Kent falter in title decider
Kent falter in title decider

Warwickshire took huge strides towards the Specsavers County Championship Division Two title by totally dominating the opening day against rivals Kent at Edgbaston.

The two sides, already guaranteed promotion, went into their final game level on points so whoever takes most from this match will go up as champions.

It had all the makings of a titanic duel between the two standout teams in the division this season – but Kent endured a day to forget as they were bowled out for 167 before the home side eased to 148 without loss at the close.

Kent have earned promotion despite accumulating only 16 batting points from 13 games and again their batsmen struggled, this time against the seamers. Chris Wright took three for 29, Keith Barker three for 31 and Olly Stone three for 36 as Warwickshire became the only team in either division to take full bowing points from every championship game this season.

Bears openers Will Rhodes (102 not out, 121 balls, 16 fours, one six) and Dom Sibley (37, 101 balls, four fours) then subdued the much-vaunted Kent seam-attack to add an unbroken 148 to their previous three championship opening stands of 123, 96 and 158.

Kent chose to bat but lost a wicket to the tenth ball when Zak Crawley edged Wright to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose. Barker then removed Sean Dickson lbw and Heino Kuhn edged Stone to second slip.

Stone, fresh from his first call-up to England’s Test squad, trapped Ollie Robinson lbw with the last ball before lunch then straight after the interval another new England Test call-up Joe Denly was prised out. Having survived on nought when he left a Barker inswinger which brushed off-stump but didn’t dislodge a bail, Denly amassed a diligent (30, 82 balls, four fours) but then edged Stone to second slip when Sibley took a sharp catch.

The clatter continued as a Barker yorker trapped Sam Billings lbw and Wright dispatched Darren Stevens, lbw, and Grant Stewart, caught behind.

Barker sent Harry Podmore’s leg-stump flying but last pair Matt Henry (32 not out, 48 balls) and Adam Riley delivered some resistance. Henry twice lifting Jeetan Patel for six as the tenth wicket added 42 before Riley fell lbw to Ryan Sidebottom.

Faced with a session to bat, Warwickshire had 50 on the board in ten overs. Rhodes took the more assertive role as he posted his fourth championship century of the season, from 105 balls, reached with his 16th four.

The opening stand was punctuated by a burst of loud applause from the very good crowd for Bears legend Allan Donald, now Kent assistant coach, who walked round the boundary. The warm reception was the only thing about the day for him to enjoy.

Warwickshire bowler Olly Stone said:

“With half-past ten starts the pitch is always going to have a bit in it and so when we lost the toss and were told we were bowling we thought there might be something there for us if we bowled well – and Wrighty and Barks bowled really well up front. 

“It definitely makes easier for me when the lads have made inroads up front and the boys have done it all year so it’s great to see it continue. Then for Rhodesy and Dom to back it up with an opening stand like that was top-drawer. They’ve just got better and better this season and have put us in a great position in this game.”


Kent head coach Matt Walker said:

“We thought it was a great toss to win. It’s a good wicket but we chose to play our worst cricket of the season on the first day of the last game of the season. It was unlike us, I think we have been brilliant all year but that wasn’t a Kent performance that I recognise this season.

“We lacked intensity with the bat. We got off to a sticky start and never really got a hold in the game. There was not a lot of movement off the surface, it swung a bit, but they bowled very well and we didn’t manage to cope with it.

“We didn’t put any partnerships of substance together and then their openers showed what a really good wicket it is.”