Kent take control at Canterbury
Kent take control at Canterbury

Kent are 82 for four after day one of their LV= Insurance County Championship game at Canterbury, trailing Middlesex by just 65. 

Darren Stevens took four for 21 for the hosts, including a spell of three for three from five overs, while Matt Milnes claimed two for 31 and Nathan Gilchrist two for 34. Mark Stoneman was Middlesex’s top scorer with 59, but the visitors collapsed from 121-2 to 147 all out.  

Tim Murtagh then took two for 19 as Kent navigated a perilous final session, Ollie Robinson and Milnes the not out batsmen at stumps on 11 and nought respectively. 

Second hosted first in the final red-ball fixture of the season, with the winners guaranteed to finish top of Division Three. 

Kent won the toss, chose to bowl and entered the field to a standing ovation, following Saturday’s triumph in the Vitality Blast at Edgbaston. 

Sam Robson made 13 before he was caught behind off Nathan Gilchrist and Stevie Eskinazi was lbw to Stevens for 15, but Middlesex made it to lunch without further loss, ending the session on 84-2. 

Stoneman brought up his fifty with a straight drive to Milnes that went for three, but Middlesex then lost five wickets for ten runs. Stoneman chopped a Stevens delivery onto his stumps and Stevens then trapped Max Holden lbw for a six-ball duck, before Grant Stewart sent Martin Andersson’s middle stump flying for nought. 

Stevens’ fifth over of the session saw him get John Simpson caught behind for six and Luke Hollman went for golden duck when he was lbw to Marcus O’Riordan.  

Toby Roland-Jones made nine when he chipped Milnes to a tumbling Stevens at mid-on and Ethan Bamber lasted just three balls before edging Gilchrist to Jack Leaning at third slip, without scoring. Murtagh then went for the fifth duck of the innings when Milnes yorked his leg stump to end the afternoon session. 

Kent’s reply got off to a rocky start when Jordan Cox left a ball from Murtagh that clipped his off stump, bowling him for two. Zak Crawley, captaining the side in the absence of Sam Billings, was caught behind off Bamber 20 and Daniel Bell Drummond was lbw for 20 to Murtagh. Leaning was then bowled by Anderson for 27, leaving Milnes to survive the two overs as night-watchman. 

Kent’s Darren Stevens said: “It’s evenly poised at the minute. I think when they were 120-odd for two, to bowl them out for what we did is a bonus. When they had Stoneman in there it was a little bit of a worry because we know he’s a class player and getting to fifty he’d have expected to get on, because the pitch wasn’t doing too much.”

“We’ve got to knuckle down tomorrow and get stuck in. It’s a shame the top order are out, if we could have had one of them in with Robbo we would probably have been just ahead of the game. Milnesy can bat as night-watchman, he was biting at the bit upstairs and wanted it. If we can get some sort of lead on there it’ll be good. 

On winning the Blast and the feelgood factor around the ground: “We were talking in the middle, saying that for the first day of a champo game, on a Tuesday in September, we just want to say massive thanks to the fans for coming out and supporting us.”

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, it was such a great day, not only for the lads, but also for the Kent supporters and the Kent family. I want more trophies! If we can win this game and finish top of the third division we’ve had a phenomenal year really.” 

Middlesex’s Mark Stoneman said: “It was the kind of surface where there was always something on offer. We got some rewards when they missed their line and length but surface wise there’s definitely something in it for the seamers and I think the lads really stuck to their task well on a longish session for us.”

“I’d imagine they walked off at lunch feeling they hadn’t done as well as they’d have liked and they certainly addressed that in the middle session. As it is we’ve done a good job there going into tomorrow morning.”