Kent game meanders to a draw
Kent game meanders to a draw

A match where willow totally dominated leather petered out into an inevitable draw in Canterbury where Division One rivals Kent and Warwickshire shared the Specsavers County Championship spoils.

With a joint ambition of avoiding demotion to the second tier both teams were perhaps content with a no-result, with Kent banking 10 points, while Warwickshire, with seven first-choice bowlers injured, will be equally pleased with nine points toward their survival tally.

However, it was a placid Canterbury pitch that had the major say in proceedings, enabling Dominic Sibley to hit a career-best 244 as well as his fourth successive championship hundred against Kent in as many matches.

Sibley’s opening partner Will Rhodes also chipped in with his first championship hundred of the summer allowing the visitors to reach 574 for seven before a declaration allowed the teams to shake hands on the draw at 4.50pm with Warwickshire still 11 runs behind on first innings.

Kent’s top order filled their boots too. Sean Dickson and Daniel Bell-Drummond both reached the 160s in their season’s best total of 585 for seven declared, while youngsters Zak Crawley and Ollie Robinson both eased to half-centuries.

It was the bowlers, therefore, who toiled without reward as only 14 wickets fell over the four days. James Wainman, the former Yorkshire left-armed paceman, flourished better than most with three for 112 for the Bears, while Grant Stewart was the only Kent bowler to take more than a single wicket.

So, it was Sibley’s marathon ten-and-half hours that dominated the final three days of the match. The tall right-hander faced 491 balls and hit 34 fours to ensure the stalemate.

Sibley took all that Kent’s attack could send down in his stride. He moved past 242 – his previous career-best for Surrey posted at The Kia Oval against Yorkshire in 2013 – with a single to deep point, after Warwickshire had posted their 450 from the 1,000th delivery of the innings.

The 23-year-old from Epsom finally came unstuck when, in attempting a lap-pull against medium pacer Bell-Drummond, he skied one off the top edge to be caught at short fine leg by Heino Kuhn running back from first slip.

Earlier in the final day Kent snared Adam Hose and Matt Lamb leg before wicket to Ollie Rayner and Stewart respectively, then, in the mid-session, Tim Ambrose was run out chancing a single to extra cover.

Sibley, who played through Surrey’s ranks from the Under-13s through to the 1st XI before joining Warwickshire in 2017, said that batting for long periods has always been part of his armoury.

He said: “I’ve never found concentrating for several sessions that difficult, it’s something that has come naturally to me from a very young age. I’ve always been able to bat long periods ever since school.

“There are elements to my game that may seem negative to some that I see as a positive and something I do really well is concentration. Of course, there have to be other things that I do well, but concentration is something that’s always there and is a foundation to build on.

“I got a double ton for Surrey quite early in my career and that seems like a lifetime ago now. So, it was nice to get another one here and spend time out there with Will.

“He batted brilliantly for his hundred and we seem to have managed to get this good combo going whereby we compliment each other quite nicely.

“It’s always difficult for bowling attacks when they’re trying to contain right and left-handers. He scores in different areas to those that I do and most of all we enjoy each other’s company out there.

“I wasn’t even aware that I’d gone past 1,000 first-class runs for the season to be honest, I’m never that fussed about stuff like that, I just want to keep scoring runs for Warwickshire and see where that takes me.”

Despite watching Sibley hog centre stage, Kent’s head coach Matt Walker defended the pitch and applauded his own side’s batting prowess. He said: “It’s been a tough four days for the bowlers for sure, but I’ve got nothing but praise for our groundsman, Adrian Llong, who has been brilliant since taking over in the close season.

“We’ve asked him to take more moisture out of the wickets here, which he’s achieved and we’ve asked to play on better wickets. The fact is, this is just a bit docile and it’s ended up as a bore draw. Sometimes that happens, there’s no blame attached to it at all.

“The bottom line is we’ll walk away with 10 points and with a number of our top-order batsmen feeling in good touch and move on to The Oval next week with a good draw behind us.”

Walker added: “We said at the start of the season that if we can’t win a game, then we must ensure we don’t lose and come away with batting points in the bank, and that’s what we’ve achieved this week.

“We stuck to our tasks really well, considering it’s such a flat pitch and the sun’s been shining throughout. It would have been easy for us to slip into complacency mode, but none of our lads have done that and we can move on to play Surrey full of confidence.”

Walker also confirmed that Kent’s overseas all-rounder, Wiaan Mulder, has been recalled from his short championship stint with Kent by Cricket South Africa after the 21-year-old picked up a slight Achilles heel injury.