Kent scrape draw at Beckenham
Kent scrape draw at Beckenham

Opening batsman Sean Dickson’s love for Beckenham is something of a family affair which possibly went some way to explaining his gritty batting display that helped Kent to secure a Specsavers County Championship draw with reigning champions Surrey.

The 27-year-old from Johannesburg, and fellow Proteas Heino Kuhn and Wiaan Mulder did their utmost with the bat to fend off all Surrey’s attack could hurl their way to see the hosts to their first draw of the season.

Dickson – who plays as an England qualified player under a UK  passport courtesy of his mother, Pat, who was born in the Kent metropolitan town – spent almost 10 hours at the crease during the game and followed his 128 in the first innings with an equally dogged 91 that helped Kent bat out the fourth and final day to finish on 352 for eight.

Dickson has only walked out with willow in hand at the New County Ground on six occasions, but his aggregate of 663 runs, which includes his career best 318 against Northamptonshire here in 2017, leads to his incredible Beckenham average of 110.50.

So little wonder that Surrey, shorn of the services of Sam Curran with a hamstring tweak, struggled to dismiss Dickson and his equally determined team-mates on what transpired to be a glorious day for batting.

The hosts started the day requiring an improbable 426 for victory, but night watchman Adam Riley set the Kentish tone by batting on for 35 minutes in his role as night watchman before being scuppered by a Curran yorker.

No sooner had the Surrey all-rounder hobbled out of the attack than Kent No4 Daniel Bell-Drummond appeared fortunate to survive appeals for caught behind and leg before from consecutive Rikki Clarke deliveries.

The bowler’s protestations led to a reprimand from umpires Graham Lloyd and Alex Wharf and Clarke may yet find himself in hot water with the ECB, but he had the last laugh here at least, by snaring Bell-Drummond leg before for seven.

The officials changed an out of shape ball, then umpire Wharf, who had complained of feeling unwell before the start, was replaced by Ben Debenham for the final two sessions of the game.

Morne Morkel, Clarke and Conor McKerr combined superbly for Surrey to fully test the resolve of Dickson and his interim skipper, Heino Kuhn, but the fellow South Africans dug in to add a crucial 82 in 28 overs.

Dickson’s 178-ball stay for 91 ended in near identical fashion to his first innings, a luckless, edged leg glance to the keeper, but Ollie Robinson marched in to play a willing foil to Kuhn as Kent reached the tea break on 233 for four.

Kuhn looked hopelessly out of sorts to begin with, particularly against the wily spin of Gareth Batty, but the former Proteas Test batsman battled to a 106-ball 50 with only three fours and settled into his work thereafter.

After tea, Surrey took the second new ball through Morkel and, only four balls later, Robinson inexplicably chipped a tame delivery to square leg to go for 34 and end a fifth-wicket stand worth 70.

Kuhn, in tandem with another countryman, Wiaan Mulder, the 21-year-old from Gauteng making his Kent debut, lasted a further six overs before fending at a Morkel lifter to be adjudged caught behind by umpire Lloyd. Kuhn, on 81 and clearly disgruntled with the decision, trudged off swishing his bat as Surrey finally saw his back after 207 minutes in the middle.

With 26 overs still to play, Mulder and left-hander Alex Blake joined forces to combat the visitors in a more counter-attacking style.

Mulder enjoyed a huge let-off with his score on 27 when he nicked to first slip Dean Elgar, only for umpire Lloyd to call a no ball allowing Kent to go into the final hour still six wickets down.

Surrey could celebrate soon after though when Blake, propping forward to the slow left-armer Elgar, offered a simple bat-pad catch to short leg.

Mulder posted a stylish first 50 in Kent colours from 71 balls with seven fours and, together with veteran Darren Stevens – whose first-class debut in April 1997 came 10 months prior to Mulder’s birth – took Kent to within 25 balls of safety when Stevens nicked a ‘snorter’ from Clarke to be caught behind for eight.

With tension at its peak, Mulder and Podmore saw out the final four overs to clinch a draw, with Kent claiming 10 points to Surrey’s 13pts.

Clarke and Morkel bowled their hearts out for three wickets apiece, but the day belonged to three, tremendously gritty Kentish South Africans.

Kent’s batting hero Wiaan Mulder, who finished unbeaten on 63, said: “It was a good day for us, especially being one-wicket down overnight, we came here needing to defend all day to try and not get bowled out.

“I’m really proud of the guys and to get a draw in these circumstances is good for morale and hopefully we can take that into our next game.

“It was a difficult afternoon and a good challenge but they were always going to come hard at us. If you crumble under that pressure you expose the tail-enders, so I just wanted to stay there and do it for the team. It doesn’t matter how man runs I score, me being out there gave us a fighting chance to get over the line.

“The South African contingent did really well with the bat overall. Sean played really well in both innings and Heino got some useful runs too. I’m really proud of the guys.”

Surrey coach Michael Di Venuto said: “We’ve had an excellent day, the guys threw everything at it and I couldn’t have asked for more.

“Losing Sam Curran so early on didn’t help matters but all the bowlers put in a terrific effort to get close, but it wasn’t to be. Numerous balls went past the edge all day but we didn’t get enough chances.

“I’m really proud of the efforts put in but unfortunately we’ve come away with a draw. There are a lot of good things to take from this game; Will Jacks’s first hundred under pressure was outstanding, good to see Scott Borthwick back in the team from injury and scoring runs, and the bowlers against did a good job throughout.

“We had a proper dip throughout the game and a proper dip today, but it just wasn’t to be.”