Kent take control at Headingley
Kent take control at Headingley

Kent have strengthened their grip on the penultimate round Specsavers County Championship clash with Yorkshire, which has reached the halfway point at Emerald Headingley.

Both counties may be out of the title running in Division One, but they are in a three-way battle for third place in the table alongside Hampshire, with Yorkshire currently holding that position.

Kent declared their first innings on 482 for eight immediately before the start of day two before chipping away at the wickets on an excellent batting surface, with the hosts bowled out for 269 shortly before close.

Kent, with a lead of 213, opted not to enforce the follow-on and reached close at two without loss from two overs in their second innings. 

Day one double centurion Darren Stevens claimed two of them and Matt Milnes five for 87 from 21 overs, although some of the gloss from Kent’s day was taken off by six dropped catches.

Early on each day has been the best time to bowl, with Kent 39 for five on day one before recovering and Yorkshire 36 for three. Matt Fisher top-scored for them with a career best 47 not out.

Stevens did the initial damage to back-up his sensational career best 237. 

He struck twice in five balls in the eighth over, getting Adam Lyth caught low down at second slip by Francois du Plessis before trapping Gary Ballance lbw the ball after he had been dropped at third slip by Zak Crawley.

That left Yorkshire at 17 for two before teenage debutant Matty Revis, dropped on nought and eight, edged Milnes’ fourth ball behind in the 18th over for nine. 

Lyth and Ballance had also fallen for single-figure scores.

Kent’s six dropped catches were all in the morning and afternoon, with wicketkeeper Ollie Robinson and slip fielders Crawley and Ollie Rayner all letting two chances go by.

While day one was helter-skelter, day two was hard-fought, with both sides working hard for reward.

Either side of lunch, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Harry Brook, who made 36 apiece, shared 59 for the fourth wicket before falling inside five early afternoon overs as the hosts fell from 95 for three in the 33rd over to 106 for five after 37.

Both men fell to Milnes, with Brook first to go lbw to one which kept low. Kohler-Cadmore then lost his off stump as he tried to leave alone.

Kent struck again in the 47th over, this time through Stevens’ new ball partner Harry Podmore, who had Jonny Tattersall (27) caught at third slip by Crawley as the score fell to 141 for six.

But batting recovery has been a theme of this fixture, and seventh-wicket Tim Bresnan and Fisher continued the trend either side of tea to take their side to the cusp of 200 and a first batting bonus point.

They calmly chalked up a half-century stand inside the opening 10 minutes of the evening session, only for it to end on 53 when Milnes uprooted Bresnan’s off stump for 39 – 194 for six in the 69th.

Podmore struck again in the first over with the new ball as he bowled Steve Patterson, leaving the score at 220 for eight after 81.

Milnes then claimed his fifth when Duanne Olivier was trapped lbw with Yorkshire six runs short of 250 in the 87th over.

By this time, Fisher had topped his previous career best score of 37, and Ajaz Patel edged a boundary to secure a second batting point.

Patel was bowled for 20 sweeping at Rayner’s off-spin to wrap up the Yorkshire innings.

Yorkshire’s Tom Kohler-Cadmore

“It’s frustrating the position we’re in. People have tried to dig in and put value on their wickets, but I felt like they’ve bowled nicely.

“No batsman has scored a fifty. Matt Fisher played well, but there’s been me, Harry Brook, Tim Bresnan all scoring 30s and Jonny Tattersall 20-odd. In those positions, we need to be kicking on. 

“Yesterday we were so far behind and away from our best. Sam Billings, I thought, played a proper four-day knock. He left the ball beautifully. Stevens just took the game away from us.

“Today, it’s been how you’d expect a day to go. But the fact they got 480 in a day has put us massively under pressure. Had they been 250, which is what you’d think was the best they could hope for from 39 for five, it would be an even game. 

“All day long, it’s had a bit in the surface. It’s been a solid day of cricket where both teams have battled hard.

“We’re in the position we’re in, and we have to put value on our wickets when we bat again. But we also can’t afford to just survive. We have to look to score because all the pressure will be off them. We have to find the right balance.”

Kent’s Matt Milnes

“I think it was quite a good day for us. We stuck to the task pretty well throughout. 

“We started very well through Darren Stevens and Harry Podmore. Podders bowled exceptionally well today and didn’t get his rewards. Then Mitch Claydon and Ollie Rayner were economical.

“We maybe got a bit more out of the pitch than they did yesterday, which is promising for the second innings.

“I’m delighted with that (50 wickets for the season). If you’d have offered me that at the start of the season, I would have snapped your hand off. I’ve exceeded all expectations with that. I was aiming for about 30.

“Podders must have got seven chances for wickets today with nicks falling short.  

“Podders (the two are housemates) said, ‘Let’s have a meal on whoever gets to 50 first’. We were on 48 then. 

“I said, ‘No chance because you’ll get it with the new ball’. He claims he’ll give me a meal, but I can’t take it off him because I declined his offer.“(Not enforcing the follow-on) We want to bowl last on that pitch. That will give Ollie Rayner the best chance as well because I thought he bowled really well. Hopefully he can get some poles in the second innings. It was also a good chance to get the feet up for a little bit.”