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Surrey pile on the runs against Kent
Surrey pile on the runs against Kent

Hashim Amla scored the 56th first-class hundred of his stellar career and Ben Geddes his first Championship ton as Surrey put Kent’s below-strength attack to the sword by piling up 445 for 5 on the opening day of their LV= Insurance County Championship match at the Kia Oval. 

Kent’s suffering was heightened as stumps approached by Sam Curran’s explosive 53 not out from just 28 balls. Remarkably, Jamie Smith, who was bowled by a persevering Toby Pettman in the final over for a classy 55, did not score a single run after Curran came in at the fall of Geddes for 124 to a sharp, tumbling second slip catch by Jordan Cox off Matt Milnes. 

Amla, the 39-year-old former South Africa batsman, also hit 124 and was joined by 20-year-old Geddes in a third wicket stand of 213 in 56 overs after Kent had asked Surrey to bat on a well-grassed but true pitch. 

Geddes, on his Oval championship debut and in just his fourth first-class match, struck two sixes and 16 fours in a 242-ball stay that showcased his high promise on a day of unrelenting toil for Kent’s bowlers. 

Missing four frontline seamers through injury, Kent drafted in on-loan Nottinghamshire seamer Pettman, who also took an early wicket but otherwise provided little threat in an attack in which only Milnes regularly looked capable of testing Surrey’s top order. 

Openers Rory Burns and Ryan Patel flew out of the blocks, New Zealand T20 international Jacob Duffy seeing his three-over new ball burst go for 21 runs and being driven regularly by the two left-handers as both he and Milnes sought early swing. 

Patel had hit seven fours in his punchy 40 from 35 balls when he edged behind off Milnes, looking to force, and in the next over – the 13th of the innings – 64 for 1 became 70 for 2 when Burns was acrobatically caught by keeper Ollie Robinson for 24. 

Leg-glancing Pettman off the face of the bat, Burns was aghast to see Robinson – keeping only because of Sam Billings’ dramatic call-up to join England’s Test team at Headingley – leap to his right to cling on with a stunning effort. 

But that double-strike were Kent’s only successes until after tea as Amla and Geddes cruised along against bowling that was often neither accurate enough nor consistent enough to put them under any pressure. 

Amla struck 15 fours in all, a number of them beautifully-timed through the covers off both the front and back foot, and his only moment of alarm in a 169-ball and near four-hour stay was when, on 47, he would have been run out had George Linde managed to hit the one stump he could see from point. 

Geddes, on 46, survived a hard, low catch to Linde in a similar position, when he square drove Duffy but otherwise the Surrey academy graduate was relatively untroubled as he pulled powerfully at anything short and also scored prolifically through square cover. 

And if he was nervous in the 90s, as he approached his maiden first-class century, he did not show it as he swung Jas Singh’s fast-medium over wide mid wicket for six to go to 97 and then, in the next over, extra cover drove Joe Denly’s leg spin for his 15th four to reach three figures. 

But Amla and Geddes’ fine tons were only the warm-up acts for Smith, who raced to his fifty in 48 balls and hit a six and seven fours, and Curran, who thumped Duffy over long on for six and struck nine gorgeous fours besides.

Surrey’s Ben Geddes said: “I am very happy to get my first hundred and it was very special to bat with Hashim [Amla] for so long out there.

“I was here as a kid, sitting in the stands, when he scored his 311 for South Africa against England. So now to get the chance to bat with him in the middle, and to sit next to him in the dressing room, is also very special. 

“Jamie Smith is a great mate so to have him batting with me when I got to the century was brilliant too. We are in a great position now and hopefully we can kick in again tomorrow.”

Jack Leaning, captaining Kent in the absence of Sam Billings, said: “There was plenty of life in the pitch this morning, as we saw when we got those two wickets when we put the ball in the right areas. 

“But overall that was another long day in the field in which we have not performed at our best. We have an uphill task now as we try to get ourselves out of this position in the game.”