Stevens ton as Kent dominate
Stevens ton as Kent dominate

Veteran all-rounder Darren Stevens starred with an unbeaten century to put Kent in the driving seat on a rain-affected second day of their LV= County Championship clash against Northamptonshire.

Stevens, who will celebrate his 45th birthday later this month, struck 116 not out – his 35th first-class hundred – and became the oldest player since 1986 to register three figures in a County Championship fixture.

He shared partnerships of 74 with Harry Podmore and 63 with Miguel Cummins for the last two wickets, shepherding Kent to a first-innings total of 455 at Northampton.

Afternoon rain restricted the Northamptonshire response to just 15.2 overs, although a flamboyant undefeated 54 by Ricardo Vasconcelos enabled them to make swift inroads on the deficit, reaching 91 for one at the close.

Northamptonshire’s hopes of wrapping up the visitors’ innings quickly in the morning gained a boost in the fourth over as Tom Taylor removed Matt Milnes, steering him to Alex Wakely at second slip.

However, Podmore proved a capable foil for Stevens, who was largely content to keep picking up singles as his partner slammed a string of boundaries off Ben Sanderson to reach 29.

Off-spinner Rob Keogh finally broke the ninth-wicket stand, tempting Podmore into a swing across the line for Adam Rossington to complete the stumping, but Kent were by no means finished.

With debutant Cummins blocking confidently and rotating the strike, Stevens inched towards his hundred, clipping Nathan Buck over square leg for six before pulling the single that raised the landmark from 120 balls.

There seemed no end to the home side’s frustration when Vasconcelos, at slip, was unable to cling onto a sharp chance from Cummins, but Taylor eventually dismissed the left-hander for 24, blasting out his middle stump.

The players returned after lunch sporting black armbands and lined up on the outfield for a two-minute silence to mark HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s passing before Northamptonshire began their reply.

Podmore took some punishment at the hands of Vasconcelos, his first three overs going for 31 as the opener unleashed a spate of cuts and cover drives to bring up his half-century in 45 deliveries.

Vasconcelos put together a brisk opening partnership of 77 with Ben Curran, the only Northamptonshire casualty so far after chopping Cummins’ third ball onto his stumps for 24.

Northamptonshire coach David Ripley said:

“We didn’t start as well as we’d like to have done (in the morning). We leaked a few runs in the first two or three overs and Kent just didn’t let up.

“It does look a good batting pitch, but I’m still reluctant to get carried away about that until both teams have batted first dig. It’s up to us to show it is a good pitch and get our score on the board.

“The openers have a nice chemistry between them, they’re good friends and look after each other off the field as well.  I was really pleased with the start, it took a little bit of the sting out of it but there’s still a lot of runs for us to find.”

Kent’s Darren Stevens, who top scored with 116 not out, said:

“I’m really appreciative of the tail helping me out. I was an angry man when Podmore got out because I thought we were going really nicely and I’d not batted with Miguel (Cummins) before!

“So I said to him ‘do you want to face spin or seam?’ and he said ‘I’m good, man’. Finally getting to 450 was great and we’re pleased with that.

“We bowled pretty poorly but Miguel looks like he’s a bit of a handful and I think he’ll be key for us. I think that’s one of these situations where seamers are looking to tie an end up while the quicker bowlers hopefully do the damage.”