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Kent on top as 20 wickets fall at Tunbridge Wells

PUBLISHED: 07:59 21 June 2018

Kent's Harry Podmore celebrates after scoring the winning runs during the Royal London One Day Cup semi final win at Worcester (pic Nigel French/PA)

Kent's Harry Podmore celebrates after scoring the winning runs during the Royal London One Day Cup semi final win at Worcester (pic Nigel French/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Twenty wickets fell on a highly dramatic opening day at Tunbridge Wells, with Specsavers County Championship Division Two leaders Warwickshire dismissing second-placed Kent for 197 before themselves crumbling to 125 in reply after tea.

In two overs’ batting before the close, Kent made four without loss in their second innings and lead overall by 76.

Joe Denly’s classy 59 on a seam-friendly pitch kept Kent afloat in the first two sessions, despite Keith Barker’s 5-32, which included a skilful spell of 4-13 in 5.1 overs to finish off Kent’s first innings.

But then Warwickshire’s batsmen – Jonathan Trott, with a calm 51 not out from 81 balls, apart – had no answer to a home attack in which Matt Henry and Darren Stevens made the new ball incisions and Harry Podmore took four wickets in his first five overs to record a career-best 4-26.

Henry returned to polish off the tail, after Henry Brookes had helped Trott to add a valuable 54 in 12 overs for the ninth wicket, and had 19-year-old Brookes caught at third slip for an excellent 28, and then saw Oliver Hannon-Dalby snick his first ball to the keeper as the Kiwi paceman finished with 4-54 and take his remarkable season’s championship haul to 47 wickets.

Warwickshire were 34-4 after Henry and Stevens each took two early scalps, before sliding further to 71-8 in glorious late afternoon sunshine as Podmore sent back Tim Ambrose, Barker and Jeetan Patel in quick succession.

Trott, watching impassively from the non-striker’s end, had come in at number four when Ian Bell fell second ball for four to Henry, well held in the gully by Adam Riley. Bell’s first ball had been top-edged to the third man boundary.

The rampant Henry, who began this match with 43 championship wickets at an average of 11 runs apiece, made the first strike too when he bowled Will Rhodes for 11 in the fifth over.

The New Zealander has been one of the best overseas player signings in recent county history, but the veteran Stevens is still proving highly effective himself in English domestic cricket with 21 wickets at 14 before this game began.

And the 42-year-old all-rounder was soon into the action with the wickets of Dom Sibley and Adam Hose in an opening spell of 8-3-18-2. Sibley nibbled at an outswinger and was caught behind for one while Hose was leg-before for five.

Then came Podmore, with the 23-year-old former Middlesex seamer producing a beauty to have Ambrose taken at second slip, pinning Barker lbw for 0, seeing Patel edge a drive at his second ball to go for four and then bowling Chris Wright for eight with another terrific ball that clipped off stump.

Kent, put in when Warwickshire captain Patel opted not to contest a toss, were in almost immediate trouble when Sean Dickson was bowled by Barker for one and Daniel Bell-Drummond, pushing forward, edged Wright to the keeper to go for seven.

From 15-2, however, Denly and Heino Kuhn counter-attacked spiritedly and there were seven sparkling fours in the in-form Kuhn’s 39 as 51 runs were added for the third wicket.

But Kuhn and Zak Crawley were both leg-before in three balls from Hannon-Dalby, and at 66-4 the home team were wobbling again.

Stevens, with a punchy 27, helped Denly to add another 51 either side of lunch before edging Wright to second slip, and Adam Rouse had scored only 10 when he edged Brookes into the slip cordon.

Barker then returned to wrap up the Kent first innings, snapping up the key wicket of Denly at 174 before bowling Henry for two, trapping Podmore leg-before for a useful 22 and also winning an lbw shout against Ivan Thomas to send the last man back for three.

Riley finished 13 not out but the tail just failed to earn Kent a batting point.

Soon, however, any thoughts of underachievement with the bat were put in perspective as Kent’s bowlers shattered Warwickshire’s reply in what has so far been a remarkable top-of-the-table contest.

A good-sized crowd of 1,500 certainly got their money’s worth, too, but it remains to be seen if the pitch flattens out enough on day two to take this game into Friday, when a bigger attendance is forecast, let alone Saturday.

Podmore said: “It’s great to get a career-best and I’m on a bit of a roll at the moment! (In reference to hitting the winning boundary in Kent’s semi-final win in the Royal London One-Day Cup against Worcestershire on Sunday).

“There’s been a little bit of movement off the seam, nothing too dramatic, but I think both Joe Denly and Jonathan Trott showed that there are runs to be had out there if you apply yourself.

“I think it has been a case of they bowled well and we bowled well. If you put it in the right areas, especially when the ball is newer, then you will get your rewards.”

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