Kent title hopes ended after Northants defeat
Kent title hopes ended after Northants defeat

Kent’s hopes of promotion looked to be all-but over after a defeat inside three days against Northamptonshire at Beckenham.

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An excellent 63 by nightwatchman Hardus Viljoen wasn’t enough, as Kent fell to defeat to Northants with a day and a session to spare to crush their promotion challenge.

With Kent’s last game at home to league-leaders Essex in two weeks time for anything to ride on the visitors must resoundingly lose to Glamorgan in the meantime – an unlikely prospect.

Whereas Kent will have been delighted to have bowled out Northants relatively cheaply in an excellent evening session with the ball the day ended on a sour note as the hosts were wobbling on 15/4, with three top-order batsmen out.

Overnight Sam Billings returned to the Kent side after England duty, albeit not appearing in their loss to Pakistan, and was disappointingly needed much sooner than he would have hoped as early in the day Sam Northeast (1) edged a Ben Sanderson ball to wicket-keeper David Murphy to leave Kent 22/5, still 132 runs shy of making Northants bat again.

It was perhaps an unlikely pairing at this stage in the innings but it paid off for Kent as the pair brought up a spirited half-century stand with the recently acquired South African Hardus Viljoen following it with a delightful drive through the off-side for four to bring up his first half-century for Kent (97b, 5×4), Kent 90/4 (Billings 27*).

Edging closer to his highest first class score of 72, Viljoen (63) fell short chasing a wide one, caught by Ben Duckett, Kent 106/6 still forty-eight runs adrift of Northants’ first innings total – An excellent innings in the context of the match.

With the morning session offering Kent a degree of hope, disaster, as Billings offered no stroke to a Steven Crook ball outside off-stump but the ball clipped the bat and ricocheted into the stumps, bowled for 39, leaving the hosts 113/7 at lunch and still forty-one runs shy of Northants’ first innings total.

Darren Stevens and Will Gidman looked to, and succeeded, in steadying the ship in the afternoon session with the hosts still forty-one runs adrift of Northants’ total and partway through the session the pair of all-rounders guided Kent past one-fifty and also crucially past 154 and thus the first-innings arrears had been neutralised (154/7; Stevens 26*, Gidman 15*).

However no sooner had the pair successfully negotiated past the milestone Gidman (16) lost his wicket edging Kleinveldt behind to David Murphy, the wicket-keeper taking it at the second attempt, and Kleinveldt registered a second innings five-for.

Joining Stevens was Matt Coles, fresh from an entertaining first-innings half-century but in going for a customary bludgeon of a stroke (7) missed a straight one and became the ninth wicket to fall, bowled by Rob Keogh, leaving Kent 169/9, leading by 15 runs with only Mitch Claydon to come.

And Stevens (44) was the last man out as he looked to move on quickly to a half-century but in connecting with a short of a length Keogh delivery he hit it straight to Alex Wakely in the deep.

So Kent were all out for 184 setting Northants thirty-one runs to win with opening pair Ben Duckett and Rob Newton not wishing to stretch the game out any longer than necessary.

Opening the bowling with Coles and James Tredwell the Northants pair were prepared to play their shots and with relative ease they took their side over the finish line with a single to win the game by ten wickets.

Kent: 230 (Dickson 63, Coles 52, Gidman 51; Kleinveldt 3/70, Crook 2/7, Azarullah 2/46) & 184 (Viljoen 63, Stevens 44, Billings 39; Kleinveldt 5/53, Keogh 2/5, Crook 2/24)

Northants: 384 (Duckett 208, Wakely 73; Claydon 3/73, Viljoen 3/91) & 31/0 (Newton 15*, Duckett 12*)

Match Summary: Northants win by ten wickets


 
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