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Kent spin into strong position
Kent spin into strong position

Kent spinners Aron Nijjar and Yuzvendra Chahal ripped through the Nottinghamshire middle order to reduce the visitors to 219 for eight in their LV= Insurance County Championship match at Canterbury, a deficit of 227.

Steven Mullaney and Joe Clarke, who made 86 and 62 respectively, looked to have blunted the Kent attack with a century stand for the third wicket, but Nijjar took career-best figures of three for 41 and India’s Chahal claimed three for 52.

Nottinghamshire had started the day well, taking six for 59 to bowl Kent out for 446 before lunch. Lyndon James was one of four Notts bowlers to claim two wickets and he finished with the best figures of two for 30. Kent captain Jack Leaning made 64.

In a game that could be pivotal for their chances of staying in Division One, Kent resumed on 387 for four but Harry Finch fell for 47 in the third over of the morning, glancing Dane Paterson behind.

Paterson struck again when Leaning clipped him to Mullaney at mid-off and James removed Joey Evison for 16, caught behind trying to hook.

Nijjar was on 11 when he edged James and although Tom Moores couldn’t cling on to a one-handed grab, after a scrambled single Nathan Gilchrist hit the next ball almost vertically and was caught by Brett Hutton.

Nijjar, on-loan from Essex, went at the start of the next over, the 115th, when he tried to hook Hutton and was caught on the boundary by sub-fielder Sam King and the innings was wrapped up two balls later when Chahal edged Hutton behind.

Kent had lost their last four wickets for four runs in the space of 17 balls, but Nottinghamshire were soon rocked by the loss off Ben Slater for a third-ball duck, when he edged Michael Hogan to Leaning at second slip.

It was 17 for one at lunch, after which Hogan had Haseeb Hameed caught behind for nine, but from 29 for two Notts recovered with Mullaney and JClarke putting together a partnership worth 131.

Chahal generated some turn during his first spell, but aside from a difficult caught and bowled chance off Mullaney the batters initially picked him with relative ease.

Mullaney hit Evison for four to pass 50, while Clarke did likewise with a single from Gilchrist, but Nijjar finally broke through when he had Clarke caught by Leaning at mid-on with the final ball of the session to leave the visitors on 160 for three at tea.

That wicket sparked a dramatic shift in the momentum, with Notts losing four for 14 and going nearly ten overs without a boundary. Mullaney tried to smash Nijjar out of the ground and was caught by Daniel Bell-Drummond at backward point, Nijjar then bowled Moores for an eight-ball duck with a ball that spun sharply and Chahal claimed his first Kent wicket with a straight one that bowled James off stump.

Matt Montgomery hit a full delivery from Chahal straight to Leaning at mid-off and Calvin Harrison tried to swipe Chahal, only to become a sprinting Leaning’s fourth catch of the innings.

Paterson and Hutton survived a dicey seven over spell to reach stumps, but the hosts will be by far the happier at the end of day two.

Kent’s Aron Nijjar said: “We had good communication, at the start we (Chahal and I) bowled a little bit too slowly, so bowling a little bit quicker was the better option. Towards the end we slowed it up a little bit but it was obviously nice to bowl with someone of such a high calibre and pick his brain between overs.

(On his first wicket) “It might never come, so it’s nice to get one and really good to get three. I’m just so pleased I can contribute and help the team out. I don’t think I’ve bowled many better than (the one that got Moores out).

“I’m very happy to be playing first-class four-day cricket again. It’s been a while, I think over two years now. I’m very thankful for the opportunity. We played a second team game (Kent v Essex) last week. I bowled well, took six wickets in the second innings and I mentioned to Jack (Leaning) and a couple of the other guys that I was available for a loan move if they needed anyone and it happened quickly with (Ben) Lister going to the New Zealand squad. I found out on Friday morning that I’d be playing on Sunday and so it all happened very quickly but I’m very happy for the opportunity.

“It’s very difficult to break into the Essex team at the moment so it’s up to me to keep my skill level as high as possible if the opportunity does arrive. I’ve paid my £2.50 to cross the bridge!”

Kent’s Yuzvendra Chahal said: “I think you have to give full credit to Aron with the way he bowled. It put pressure on them, especially on certain batsmen. That gave me more confidence that the wicket was spinning so when I came from the other end my idea was ‘ok, I have to support him, not give easy runs and bowl wicket-to-wicket.’

“That’s why I’m here. When your team need you always have to give 100 percent. Aron was bowling very well from the (Pavilion) End so that end was empty and I thought ok, I can put pressure on from that end.

“I haven’t played red ball cricket for 14 months so it was bit tough for me but it’s a good experience and I never felt like I was playing for Kent for the first time, the way they treated me. It’s like a family.

“We knew the ball would get old, that it wouldn’t be easy to hit and that it might spin. I think on the third and fourth day it will do more. It’ll be tough to bat on day four.

“When I was a kid I always wanted to play county cricket and luckily today I have. I might come back!”

Nottinghamshire’s Steven Mullaney said: “I thought we started superbly this morning, Dane and Brett bowled beautifully. Myself and Joe put on a really good partnership but unfortunately we lost one just before tea and a couple of poor shots have properly put us up against it a bit.

“We’ve got a chance to bat on a really good wicket again at some point in the game and we’ll see where we get to. It was a tough day yesterday and things didn’t go our way. They played well but we pride ourselves on coming back hard and staying at the opposition all day. I thought Dane was unlucky yesterday, he bowled really well.

“Brett had a chat with Kevin Shine our bowling coach about a couple of things and rectified them this morning. He bowled beautifully.

“I didn’t really go out looking to be overly positive but I’ve worked on a couple of things technically over the last few weeks when I’ve had a bit of time off and they’ve sort of sunk in. I felt good at the crease and hopefully they can continue over the next two and a half games.

“Joe played beautifully and that was an important partnership after losing two wickets to two decent balls early. We’re disappointed not to have made that a really big partnership and we both know we’ve not played great shots, but hopefully we’ll go and put that right.”