Derbyshire v Kent, LV=County Championship – Division Two
County Ground, Derby, 2 August – 5 August 2012 – 11am start
After securing a nine-wicket victory over Derbyshire in the Clydesdale Bank 40 last night, Kent remain in the midlands to take on the league leaders in their latest must-win LV= County Championship division two clash, starting tomorrow.
Derbyshire have opened up a 14 point gap over Yorkshire at the top of the table with Kent sitting in fourth position – 17 points adrift of the leaders. Rob Key’s side remain unbeaten in four-day cricket this season but bad weather has thwarted their chances to add to the two victories they have claimed from their ten games. It means that there is all to play for at the County Ground as Kent look to bounce back into the top flight.
More frustration ensued last week when a stubborn last wicket stand ensured fellow promotion candidates Hampshire held out for a draw, despite Kent dominating all four days at the Ageas Bowl. After winning the toss and electing to bat first, the hosts could only muster 292 and were largely indebted to skipper Jimmy Adams for reaching that total. The left-hander repelled some fine bowling for 191 balls but fell nine short of a deserved century when Darren Stevens extracted an edge at the wicket. Liam Dawson contributed 51 but seam bowlers Charlie Shreck and Mark Davies took three wickets apiece to put Kent on top.
In reply, Rob Key and Sam Northeast firmly drove home the visitors’ advantage. The duo posted 252 for the opening wicket. Northeast was the dominant force, striking 15 boundaries in a well-paced 140, while Key was slightly more circumspect during his knock of 119. Rain washed out the majority of the third day but some quick runs from the Kent tail allowed them to bat on during the fourth morning to reach 467 - a lead of 175.
Adams was again the rock second time around; thwarting Kent’s victory charge. He led by example, batting for 323 minutes for an unbeaten 85, as wickets fell around him. James Tredwell returned three for 62 and once Matt Coles took out David Balcombe and James Tomlinson in consecutive balls the home side looked doomed on 144 for nine. However, Adams found fine support in the shape of last man Danny Briggs as the duo dug in for twenty overs to deny an exasperated Kent a richly deserved win.
Derbyshire’s last outing in championship cricket came during Chesterfield Festival Week, a couple of weeks ago, but again rain ruined the celebrations as the leaders played out a draw with Yorkshire as only 94 overs were available during the match. Batting first, Yorkshire scored 219 with Tim Groenewald, Mark Turner and Wes Durston all taking three wickets. Derbyshire then struggled in reply, with on-loan quick Steve Harmison (3-49) reducing them to 135 for seven. However, the chance of a result was never on offer as both sides had to make do with six points.
Last season, in the corresponding fixture, a magnificent career-best of 199 from Joe Denly proved to be in vain as the hosts claimed victory in a high-scoring end-of-season encounter at Derby.
The home side completely dominated day one with Durston blasting a typically belligerent 118, off just 120 balls. The former Somerset all-rounder cracked twenty boundaries to put the Kent attack to the sword as Derbyshire closed on 405 for six with Ross Whiteley unbeaten on 71. On day two, left-hander Whiteley really went to town. He smashed an unbeaten 130, including four sixes, as the hosts piled up 535. The pick of the Kent attack was the on-loan David Balcombe, who bagged six wickets in his last appearance for the Club.
It was then Denly’s turn to showcase his talents. The right-hander struck 27 boundaries and one six during his 307-ball stay and starred in a 151-run fifth wicket stand with Azhar Mahmood (97). Unfortunately, only these two made telling contributions and Kent were left trailing by 116-runs after the opening salvos.
Their response was strong however with Balcombe, Coles and Stevens all taking three wickets to restrict the hosts to 181 all-out. Wayne Madsen made 73 for Derbyshire to help them set Kent a tricky victory target. Denly again showed his class, with 68, and Darren Stevens hit a quickfire half-century but medium-pacer Jonathan Clare and spinner Durston shared eight wickets to blow Kent away on the final day as the hosts succumbed to 196 all-out - chasing 298 for the win.
Both teams have two batsmen in the top ten highest run scorers of division two so far this season. For Kent, captain Key is once again hitting the highs; his 557 runs coming at an average of 55.70 while the Club’s West Indian overseas player, Brendan Nash, continues to prove himself as a canny overseas recruit; his 536 runs coming at 59.55.
New Zealander Martin Guptill (594 runs at 49.50) excelled during his spell at Derbyshire in the early stages of the season but he has since been replaced by Australian left-hander Usman Khawaja. Dan Redfern completes the set. The 22 year-old is enjoying a fine run laden season – with 554 runs at an average of just over fifty going into this fixture.
In the bowling ranks, both have potent attacks. England Lions star Coles sits second in the divisional rankings, having claimed 35 scalps – one behind leader David Balcombe. Seamer Charlie Shreck is currently in third spot with 33 victims to his name, after making a fine start to his Kent career since his summer move from Nottinghamshire. Closely following Shreck is Derbyshire’s opening bowler Tony Palladino. The former Essex paceman has taken 32 wickets and his partner in crime, fellow new ball bowler Tim Groenewald (27 wickets), is in tenth spot. Sandwiched between them is talented all-rounder Jonathan Clare, who has 28 wickets to his name.
Both sides have men in form and all concerned will be hoping to shine in Derby over the next four days. Kent have played some fantastic four-day cricket so far this season and deserve to be in with a shout for promotion, but Derbyshire will arguably provide the sternest test yet for Jimmy Adams’ side.
Team news to follow.
Photo: Sarah Ansell