Cricket: Kent on top against Somerset

PUBLISHED: 08:30 07 April 2019 | UPDATED: 08:30 07 April 2019

Kent's Sean Dickson in batting action (pic Mike Egerton/PA)

Kent's Sean Dickson in batting action (pic Mike Egerton/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

Newly-promoted Kent announced themselves in style on the First Division stage, assuming the upper hand on the second day of the rain-delayed Specsavers County Championship match against Somerset at Taunton.

Making up for lost time after the first session was lost to a damp outfield, the visitors bowled out Somerset for 171 in 48 overs, Mitch Claydon returning impressive figures of 5-46 and Matt Milnes claiming 3-40.

Only Tom Abell offered meaningful resistance, the skipper top-scoring with 49 as the hosts lost their last six wickets for the addition of just 41 runs in 11.5 overs.

Inspired by Sean Dickson’s resilient innings of 41 not out, Kent reached the close on 84 for the loss of Zak Crawley and nightwatchman Harry Podmore, 87 runs behind with eight first-innings wickets remaining.

After a first day washout, the home side initially warmed wind-chilled spectators, with openers Marcus Trescothick and Azhar Ali adding 30 inside nine overs.

But their smooth progress was interrupted when veteran left-hander Trescothick, embarking upon his 26th season, played across the line, missed a straight delivery from Podmore and lost his off stump for 10.

Having breezed his way to 24, Pakistani Test batsman Azhar was next to go, pushing tentatively at length ball from Milnes and edging to Dickson at first slip.

Promoted up the order to number three, James Hildreth produced some eye-catching shots off the back foot in raising 27, only to let himself down when an innings of substance beckoned, edging Claydon to Crawley at second slip with the score on 63.

Eddie Byrom played the shot of the day, straight driving Milnes for four, before driving loosely at a wide delivery next ball and falling to Darren Stevens’ tumbling catch in the gully.

Kent wicketkeeper Ollie Robinson passed up an opportunity to make further inroads, spilling a catch low to his right off the bowling of the aggrieved Milnes to afford Abell a life when he had scored just one.

Somerset’s captain made good his escape, playing the lead role in a restorative alliance with Steve Davies, these two raising a 50 partnership inside 10 overs. But Davies then blotted his copybook, wafting at a ball outside off stump and offering a catch to Milnes at backward point off the bowling of Claydon.

Making his first Championship appearance since June last year, George Bartlett came and went quickly, shuffling in front of a Claydon delivery that cut back into him, and worse followed for the home side when Lewis Gregory played loosely at a length ball from Milnes and was held by Matt Renshaw at second slip for four.

Apparently spooked by events at the other end, the hitherto unflappable Abell uncharacteristically succumbed to a short-pitched delivery from Claydon, top-edging a hook to long leg one run short of his half century as Somerset, rocked by the loss of three wickets in 12 balls, slumped to 145-8.

Claydon completed his five-wicket haul when inducing Josh Davey to nick a leg-side catch behind for seven and Podmore wrapped up the innings, taking a return catch to dismiss Craig Overton for 14.

Despite the glare of the new Cooper Associates Ground floodlights, which were switched on for the first time at 5.30pm, the mood among Somerset members darkened still further as Hildreth dropped Dickson on 10 at first slip off the bowling of Gregory.

Crawley and Dickson demonstrated rather better judgment than those who had gone before them, surviving a probing examination from new ball bowlers Gregory and Jack Brooks in an opening stand that yielded 71 runs and afforded Somerset’s innings grim perspective.

Overton effected a much-needed breakthrough, Crawley edging to second slip for 37, while Podmore clipped Davey to square leg shortly before the close, leaving Dickson and Renshaw to negotiate two overs.

Kent bowler Claydon said: “There’s always chatter about the big difference between First and Second Division cricket, but that doesn’t worry us. We’ve got only three guys who have played First Division before but that was a great start for us.

“We’ve tried to get across that it’s just one team with 11 players we’re up against. One day doesn’t make a season, but this is a good marker.

“Matt Milnes is buzzing after his debut. Leaving Notts was a big decision for him, but he’s come here to play consistently, which is all you want to do if you’re a professional cricketer. That was a great way for him to start.

“I was pleased to get a five-for. I missed a lot of last season because of injury and I’m not getting any younger. If other guys had been fit, I might not have featured, so I really enjoyed playing.

“Zak (Crawley) and Sean (Dickson) batted beautifully and showed that they belong in this division. We’ve lost three good players, but have a group of young guys who are ambitious and who want to do well. The aim will be to bat as long as possible and, hopefully, Matt Renshaw can upset the Somerset fans.”

Somerset batting coach Jason Kerr added: “It was a frustrating day, especially after the preparation we’ve had and the way we’ve come into the season. If the guys had that opportunity (to bat) again, they would certainly apply themselves differently.

“I don’t think there are any demons in the wicket and, to be fair to the groundstaff, they have prepared a good cricket wicket. We haven’t applied ourselves properly and the players in the dressing room are aware of that. They will have the opportunity to put that right in the second innings.

“I think in the 30 overs we bowled, there was a lot of playing and missing and we had plenty of opportunities. I think we bowled pretty well and, at two an over, Kent have not got away from us.

“The first session (on Sinday) is going to be really important and the guys are going to have to come back and show the character they showed for a lot of the time last year. If we can get a couple of early wickets and put Kent under pressure, it could be a very different story.

“It was a great start for Tom Abell and the way he compiled his innings was outstanding. He’s just disappointed he didn’t go on. When he and Steve Davies established their partnership, I thought that was the time for us to go and grasp the game by the scruff of the neck. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”

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