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Kent routed by Essex at Canterbury
Kent routed by Essex at Canterbury

Essex have routed Kent by an innings and 96 runs in the Vitality County Championship at Canterbury.

Simon Harmer took four for 32 and Shane Snater three for 15 as the visitors skittled Kent for 109 in their second innings, to cut the gap to championship leaders Surrey to just two points.

Joe Denly’s 23 was Kent’s highest score and the hosts are destined to finish this round of fixtures at the bottom of the Division One table if Lancashire avoid defeat against Warwickshire at Old Trafford.

Kent were 197 behind going into the final day and home fans were hoping that a combination of the grit shown on day three and a biblical weather forecast might see them escape with a draw.

They were severely disappointed. There was torrential rain almost everywhere else in the county but play began on time and Kent endured a gruesome morning session, the tone for which was set when Zak Crawley survived just four balls before he was lbw to Snater.

Essex threw the ball to Harmer after just 12 overs and he struck with his third delivery to get Ben Compton lbw for 12. Marcus O’Riordan was next to go, making nine from 25 balls before Harmer had him caught at short leg by Nick Browne.

Daniel Bell-Drummond was lbw to Matt Critchley for 20 in the next over, the 20th and Harry Finch inexplicably tried to reverse sweep Harmer while on 4 and was lbw, although in mitigation he seemed to have been hit outside the line.

Kent were 64 for five at lunch, after which there was a mere 10-minute delay for rain.

Denly and Joey Evison at least offered some resistance, but having dealt with the spinners fairly comfortably Evison was lbw to Snater for 16. Snater then sent Grant Stewart’s off stump cartwheeling for one to claim his hundredth first class wicket for Essex.

Denly tried to drive Harmer but was caught by Aaron Beard for 23 and with Wes Agar unable to bat the victory was confirmed when Critchley got Parkinson lbw for 10 in the 58th over.

Essex’s Anthony McGrath said: “When we saw the wicket on Thursday at practice we knew it was probably going to be a very good one and pretty slow and that’s how it turned out. We probably batted on for longer than we normally would but just thought if the wicket did break up it was going to be in the later stages of day four.

“The wickets last night were crucial in the grand scheme of things and as we always do we find a way. To lose Sam Cook early in the match and still get 19 wickets in the end was an incredible performance and just another example of how resilient the guys are.

“Zak is a terrific player and I think to get him early was a big wicket for us because he can score so quickly. With a lead of around 200 if he’d got in he could have eaten into that pretty quickly so that was absolutely vital.

“That first session really killed it and I think it shows just what a good attack we’ve got even when it’s a slow benign pitch we’ve got high-class spinners in Simon Harmer and Matt Critchley and Tom Westley put his hand up with a few wickets so that was nice to see.

“The footmarks started to show a bit and we bowled around the wicket even to the right-handers to give him some assistance and the problem really was the bounce of the pitch but he showed all his skill, as did Matt to create the chances. That proved vital in that second innings.

“Tom’s just said upstairs in his speech to the lads that his wickets turned the game and that’s the reason why we won! No, he’s had a good week as captain, we’ve had some discussion about how long we should bat for and he was pretty adamant we should carry on. It was a brilliant decision to put pressure on the Kent batsmen with the big total we got. He’s had a good week has Tom.

“Unfortunately there’s no more news on Sam (Cook). It’s a hamstring but because it’s a Bank Holiday weekend we haven’t managed to get a scan. Hopefully we’ll get one tomorrow and we’ll know the extent of it then. Historically he is quite a quick healer and he is a very good professional so we’re crossing our fingers it’s not going to be too long.”

Kent’s Daniel Bell-Drummond said: “We’re very disappointed. We’ve been second best for the whole game really from day one so yeah, it’s very frustrating. We didn’t do very well, especially on this last day but it’s probably a little bit of the pressure, especially in this last month or so and being second best in a lot of games. It showed today with a few tired shots and scoreboard pressure got the better of us.

“It’s a shame, we batted well in the first innings to an extent so to fall in a heap like that was disappointing but in a way not surprising considering the pressure we’ve been under for quite a while.

“They bowled well as well, but yeah, we shouldn’t have been bowled out for 110. It’s day four and you expect the wicket to disintegrate but we’re not happy with that performance.

“It’s been a tough seven games. We’ve shown some good signs in patches, obviously with the win at Old Trafford but there’s a lot of things happening. Like I said before with five bowlers injured, if you put that on any team it’s going to give you a different outlook.

“They guys are giving everything, the effort in the field I can’t fault but obviously Wes going down in the first session of the first day didn’t help. There’s a few things that aren’t going our way but at the end of the day we haven’t been good enough and we need to improve if we’re going to make strides up the league.

“T20 is coming up now so it’s a good time to reflect on that and try to improve. Like I say, it has been a struggle at points and some of the loads have caught up with a lot of the bowler. It’ll be good to get them back on the park and fighting fit.”