Cricket: Stevens stars again as Kent dominate
PUBLISHED: 18:37 11 September 2019
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Darren Stevens continued to roll back the years with another remarkable performance on the second day of Kent’s Specsavers County Championship match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.
Notified last week that he won't be offered a contract extension by Kent, the 43-year old followed up his first day score of 88 with a sublime spell of swing-bowling to accelerate Nottinghamshire's relegation towards Division Two.
Stevens claimed figures of 5-39 as the home side were bundled out for just 124 in their first innings, a deficit of 180.
The all-rounder had picked up the wicket of Jake Libby on the first evening and had to wait until after lunch before adding to his tally. Steven Mullaney was pinned lbw to the second ball of the afternoon session, opening the floodgates for five wickets to fall in quick succession - four of them to Stevens.
Sam Billings shared top billing with his teammate as the Kent captain elected not to enforce the follow-on and made the most of another opportunity at the crease by scoring his first hundred of an injury-ravaged campaign.
Billings, who has missed four months of the season after shoulder surgery, was dismissed in the final over of the day for exactly 100.
Stumps were drawn with Kent on 236-8, an overall lead of 416.
Luke Fletcher (3-40) and Ravi Ashwin (3-71) were the pick of the Nottinghamshire bowlers.
The hosts began the day on their overnight score of 35-2, with Fletcher at the crease as a nightwatchman alongside Ben Slater.
They were soon parted, with Harry Podmore making the early breakthrough, by having Slater caught behind by Ollie Robinson for 20.
The same bowler then scooped up a low caught and bowled offering from Ben Duckett, who made eight.
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Fletcher's lengthy vigil ended after 90 minutes at the crease, with Matt Milnes having him caught in the cordon for 17.
Mullaney, playing his first match for two months after knee surgery, had an uncomfortable return to action, being dropped on one, before needing lengthy treatment after a blow to the forearm.
He became Stevens' 500th first-class victim, with the bowler then nipping out 4-13 in only 5.1 overs as Liam Patterson-White edged to slip, Tom Moores was struck on the pad and Paul Coughlin lofted to mid-on.
Coughlin's wicket prompted Stevens to stand in the middle of the strip, arms aloft, celebrating the 24th five-for of his career.
Podmore played the chief supporting role, gathering Ashwin's scalp to finish with 3-27.
Batting for a second time, Kent lost Daniel Bell-Drummond cheaply and Jordan Cox retired hurt after a blow to the arm but runs still came at a furious pace.
Crawley led the charge, hitting 13 fours and two mighty sixes off Ashwin and Patterson-White.
The 21-year old looked on course for his third championship hundred of the summer before chopping on, against Fletcher, who also had Heino Kuhn caught behind.
Stevens' remarkable match took a dip as he was dismissed for nought by Ashwin, during an over that also saw Robinson dismissed in the same manner.
Ashwin gained two lbw decisions in quick succession, removing both Robinson and Stevens in the same over.
Billings had reached his 50 from only 58 balls and entered the final over of the day on 96. He drove Patterson-White for four to reach the landmark from 105 deliveries but then drilled the next ball straight back into the bowler's hands.
Kent had earlier mathematically guaranteed themselves Division One safety with their haul of bowling points but the future looks bleak for Notts, who are now staring their ninth defeat of the season in the face.