Stevens stars as Kent victorious
Stevens stars as Kent victorious

Kent duly completed their fourth victory of the Specsavers County Championship season as they defeated Nottinghamshire by 227 runs before tea on the third day at Trent Bridge.

The loss – Nottinghamshire’s sixth in a row – virtually confirms their relegation to Division Two.

Darren Stevens, who dominated the opening two days by scoring 88 and then taking five wickets in Nottinghamshire’s first innings, was again to the fore as the home county failed to show any resistance after being set a nominal victory target of 440.

Stevens claimed figures of five for 53 second time around, as Notts were bowled out for 212 in 51.2 overs.

Ravi Ashwin hung around for over two hours in making 55 but the script had already been written long before then.

Kent chose to bat on for a short while at the start of the day, before being bowled out for 259 in their second innings. Ashwin took the final two wickets to finish with five for 89 for the hosts.

Harry Podmore was bowled for 16, swishing vigorously at the spinner and then Jordan Cox, who had resumed his innings after retiring hurt on the second day, was given out lbw for 20, giving the Indian international his ninth wicket of the match.

Notts sprang something of a surprise by sending Steven Mullaney and Ben Duckett out to open at the start of their chase – Ben Slater and Jake Libby had done it in the first innings.

The first wicket duo added 27 before Mullaney elected not to play at Darren Stevens and was castled in the sixth over.

Two balls later Chris Nash followed, struck lbw having also opted to leave the ball alone.

Duckett had played positively for his 20 but then deflected a Podmore delivery onto the stumps. Slater was also dismissed in the session, given out lbw to Stevens for 19 – the all-rounder completing a spectacular match with his 500th wicket for the county.

Matt Milnes bowled Libby with the final ball of the morning session to send the hosts into the break on 91 for five.

Two convincing boundary shots from Tom Moores were followed by a tame steer to point but Kent’s victory celebrations were put on hold as Ashwin and Paul Coughlin combined in a defiant partnership of 75 which spanned 92 minutes.

Stevens – who else? – returned to the attack to accelerate the outcome by having Coughlin caught behind for 39.

Ashwin, who had reached his 50 from 77 balls, fell to Rayner at the other end and the tail didn’t delay anyone for too long, giving Kent their first double over Notts since 2003.

Nottinghamshire’s relegation now seems certain and will be confirmed on Friday if Warwickshire – who have the upper hand – either win or draw their match against Essex at Edgbaston.

Matt Walker (Kent Head Coach)

“I’m really pleased. After our disappointment against Essex (last match), where we crumbled in a heap. To come here against a fighting Notts side, who had to win, from ball one we’ve played some fine cricket.

“I’m really pleased, we wanted to finish the season off well. Ewe had set our sights on three wins from the final three wins, so one from one and I’m pleased with the team performance.”

On staying up…and confounding the pre-season odds on staying up….

“When you come up and look at the sides around you – and the bookmakers do the same – it’s not unfair for people to make the assessment about a side like us coming up. It’s a very obvious thing, I suspect. But I certainly didn’t believe that would be the case and believe strongly in the group that we’ve got. I’m proud that we’ve proved people wrong and rather than looking towards the bottom of the table we’re actually looking towards the top as we go into the final stages.”

On Darren Stevens’ performance…

“I’m very pleased with how he batted, more than how he bowled. Those runs at that stage of the game were very important. He hasn’t batted as well as he would have liked in this format and that was vintage Darren with the bat, which was great to see. And with the ball he’s been fantastic for the last few wickets, as he has been for however many years.”

Steven Mullaney, (Notts captain)

Thoughts on the defeat….

“Embarrassing, hurtful – basically we are relegated now and it’s not a nice feeling. I’ve been here before and it doesn’t get any easier.

“But the way the whole season has gone has been well below what we expect of everybody, myself included. We’ve still got a bit of pride left to play for but that is pretty much it.

“We’re not many any excuses, we’ve not scored enough runs, collectively or individually and not built any partnerships for a long time. It’s just not acceptable. I’m embarrassed, everyone’s embarrassed.”