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Kent register first Championship win
Kent register first Championship win

Kent finally registered their first win of the 2022 County Championship season on Wednesday when they defeated Gloucestershire by eight wickets.

Needing five wickets on the final day with a potential chase on the cards too, Kent knocked off the rest of the Gloucestershire batters by tea and chased down 88 comfortably in the final session to take 22 points form the match.

Centuries from Jack Leaning and Jordan Cox in the Spitfires’ first innings set up the victory, with New Zealander Jacob Duffy taking a five-fer on debut including four wickets for eight runs in a manic final session on Tuesday.

Despite almost gifting George Linde a simple catch at mid-wicket early on but for the South African’s drop, Miles Hammond got off the mark for the day off the final ball of the opening over with a cover drive for three off Tuesday’s hero Jacob Duffy.

Hammond then flicked fine for four past a diving Sam Billings, before brilliant fielding from Grant Stewart denied Chris Dent his first boundary of the day as a frantic start continued in the Canterbury sun.

Hammond began to accelerate, flicking Quinn off his pads to the square leg boundary for a fine four, and Dent crunched back-to-back boundaries as the visitors moved ever closer to making Kent bat again.

The 50-partnership arrived in good time from just 60 balls, but Jacob Duffy struck to register a five-wicket haul on Spitfires debut.

Drawing an edge from Dent, Jordan Cox juggled the ball at second slip. Birthday boy Sam Billings was on hand to mop up however and took the catch to send the Gloucestershire opener on his way for 32 and leave the visitors six down with the deficit still 35.

The 100 was brought up by Hammond with a hack for four off Linde, but with the division’s basement side still trailing by 25 it was a huge ask to save the game.

Hammond’s aggressive approach cost him when Linde bowled him with a ball that turned sharp for 41 with Gloucestershire still 17 runs off Kent’s total, but captain Ryan Higgins calmed the nerves alongside Glenn Phillips to take Gloucestershire into the lead just before lunch.

Linde almost took a sensational catch low to his left off Higgins, but the ball popped out his hand – harsh to call it a drop, but a chance nonetheless.

Higgins and Phillips brought up the 50-partnership soon after lunch, and just when it looked like the two were set for the afternoon, Matt Quin returned to the Kent bowling attack and caused Higgins to play onto his stumps to send the visiting captain on his way for 30.

The lead passed 50, but part-timer Daniel Bell-Drummond struck with just his third ball as Ollie Price pulled the medium-pacer to substitute fielder Will Harby for three.

Phillips’ third four brought up his 50, ensuring he continued where he left off after his century in the first innings. That also brought up Gloucestershire’s 200 and a lead of 74.

The innings was eventually wrapped up when Linde had Phillips caught at slip for 59, leaving Kent with 88 runs to score in the evening session with 38 overs left in the day.

Ollie Robinson got Kent off to a quick start, scoring 22 runs from 24 balls but was caught high at cover by Hammond off Zafar Gohar.

Ben Compton and Daniel Bell-Drummond were going well until the former was LBW to Phillips for 30, but the damage was done, and Bell-Drummond and Jack Leaning saw Kent through though.

Cheers commenced around the ground as the win was confirmed, as the Spitfires took a huge stride towards Division One survival.

Kent’s Jacob Duffy said: “It was awesome. First of all it was awesome for me to get a taste of the county grind. I’ve been a fan, from a distance, for quite a while so to get a taste was pretty cool. Kent have been very welcoming and it’s been awesome to be here. 

“The spell last night was just one of those things. I’d struggled, massively, on day one. A lot of things weren’t clicking I guess, so it was nice to correct that on day three. It was just one of those moments when everything happens for you. I think we talked about getting one or two wickets and that would have been fine, but you just take what you can get in those situations and luckily they kept sending in nightwatchmen, so you play what’s in front of you. We were lucky enough to hold our catches and take our chances. 

“It was a bit of a relief to get the five-wicket haul. I’m only here for a couple of games and you want to put your best foot forward and help Kent because we’re in a bit of a sticky situation down near the bottom of the log. There was a bit of relief, especially after day one. 

“I came here with the New Zealand team as part of their extended squad and once they cut it to 15 for the test, so I was actually hanging around in holiday in Bristol. I played a couple of club sessions and managed to get in touch with the Kent guys. They obviously need bowling at the moment, so it just worked out beautifully.” 

Gloucestershire’s Dale Benkenstein said: “I felt that we were in the game for most of the game. It was pretty similar to other games where we just can’t bowl sides out. We have been hurt by not having the overseas bowler for pretty much the whole season and it has been tough. The positives are that we at least got our full batting points, so that was a step forward, but our bowling isn’t quite there to be able to get into winning positions. 

“If we look at opposition’s performances it’s generally an international quality spell that’s bowling us out and we haven’t been able to do that against the opposition, or when we have done it’s been too late. It was great to see Tom Price, it’s the first time I’ve actually seen him play in a competitive game and what he showed in that spell just showed that he has got that quality. We haven’t had him for the whole season either and that’s what we need, a bit more of that quality and a little bit earlier. 

(On sending in three night-watchers last night). “One thing I’ve learned in county cricket, is that you see things you’ll never see in any other competition in the world, because of the volume of cricket and things happen that are pretty bizarre. 

“What I did like is that the captain is in charge as well. He’s felt, his experience was, we’ve lost batters in this situation where two batters have gone after one night-watchman and got out, so he felt if we lose a night-watchman, we keep sending another night-watchman in. Obviously that didn’t work.”

“It’s quite tough for tail-end batsmen to face world-class bowling so it is what it is. I think Hammo ended up having to face two balls of an over. We were hoping that it may have paid dividends and we’d only know today.”

“My feeling, and we’ve had the chat, is that one nightwatchman is understandable but the batters are more equipped to get through a quality spell like that than the tail-enders, so I’m not sure it’ll happen again.” (He did laugh at this point).