Championship Report: Warwickshire at Kent
Day Four: Close
Warwickshire went down to a heroic Specsavers County Championship defeat to Kent despite totalling 445 on the final day of a magnificent match.
Chasing a mammoth 519 to win, the Bears resisted superbly into the last session before being finally bowled out with 27.5 overs to spare.
On a wonderful final day’s play at Tunbridge Wells, Ian Bell’s third century in four championship innings and Dominic Sibley’s first ton for Warwickshire kept their side in sight of pulling off the biggest run-chase ever in the county championship.
Bell batted for a minute over six hours for a high-class 172 (282 balls, 24 fours) while Sibley played with great resolve for his 104 (258 balls, nine fours) on a pitch offering increasingly variable bounce.
Their second-wicket partnership of 260 in 75 overs took the Bears within 215 of victory with nine wickets left. But in the end the challenge proved too much against a Kent attack which kept going impressively all day in the heat.
After Warwickshire resumed on 229 for one, Sibley and Bell continued to bat with immense concentration and diligence until the former edged Harry Podmore to second slip.
Jonathan Trott, having been padded up for hours while very few balls misbehaved, promptly copped an absolute snorter fifth ball, from Podmore, and edged behind for a duck.
As Kent’s seamers sustained the pressure impressively throughout a hot afternoon, Bell and Adam Hose added a hard-earned in 28 in 13 overs. The big breakthrough came when Ivan Thomas jagged one inside Bell’s defence to win an lbw decision.
Hose continued to defy but Kent pared away at his partners. Matt Henry hit Tim Ambrose’s off-stump and Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel were caught in the cordon to send the Bears into tea on 414 for seven with Hose having just reached his 50 (92 balls, seven fours) – his first in the championship for Warwickshire.
Hose and Chris Wright added 35 to keep the Bears’ hopes alive but Kent’s belated decision to turn to spin quickly did for both of them in three balls. Both fell lbw with Hose (65, 116 balls, nine fours) appearing a little hard done by.
That left last pair Henry Brookes and Olly Hannon-Dalby with 78 runs to find or 29 overs to survive but the latter soon skied Denly and a great match was over with both sides warmly applauded off the lovely Nevill Ground by a very appreciative crowd.
Day Three: Close
Warwickshire are eyeing a tilt at history on the final day of their remarkable Specsavers County Championship match against Kent at Tunbridge Wells.
In an extraordinary and riveting tussle between the Division Two top two the Bears, chasing a mammoth 519 to win, closed the third day on 229 for one.
After 20 wickets fell on the first day, when the ball nipped about voraciously in the hands of two impressive seam-attacks, batsmen have since completely dominated.
Kent declared their second innings at 446 for eight, setting the Bears a target of 519 which, if achieved, would comfortably exceed the existing biggest total to win a county championship match – 472 by Middlesex against Yorkshire at Lord’s in 2014.
Even on a flattening pitch, that is an enormous number of runs, the harvesting of which would take immense concentration and technique. But the many Warwickshire fans among the crowd at the lovely Nevill Ground are dreaming of an “I was there” occasion on the final day with Dominic Sibley (82 not out, 197 balls, seven fours) and Ian Bell (102 not out, 174 balls, 15 fours) having added an unbroken 185 in 55.4 overs for the second wicket.
On the third morning, Kent took their overnight 359 for six to 446 for eight before declaring half an hour before lunch. On a hot morning, Warwickshire’s bowlers persevered really well to ensure that runs had to be earned. Olly Hannon-Dalby picked up two wickets as Harry Podmore edged behind and Zak Crawley was trapped lbw for 93 (189 balls, nine fours).
Sibley and Will Rhodes negotiated an awkward eight-over session to take the Bears to 26 without loss at lunch. They then took their stand to 44 before Rhodes (26, 63 balls, two fours) was trapped lbw by Podmore’s second ball.
Kent sensed an opportunity but Sibley and Bell played with great care and patience, as the situation demanded and the time available allowed. Sibley reached her first championship half-century for the Bears from 102 balls with four fours and Bell followed to his fifty from 97 with seven.
It was calm, measured batting as Bell advanced to his 55th first-class century, reached from 164 balls with his fifteenth four, and Sibley batted in resolute and compact fashion through to stumps.
The Bears still have tons of work to do but have laid a superb foundation to mount a serious challenge for what would be a truly remarkable record.
Day Two: Close
Second-innings centuries by Sean Dickson and Joe Denly helped Kent to build a potentially game-defining lead of 431 runs as the hosts closed on day two of their top-of-the-table Specsavers County Championship clash with Warwickshire on an impressive 359 for six.
In a complete volte face to the opening day when 20 wickets fell, Kent’s third-wicket pairing found batting at The Nevill in Tunbridge Wells a pleasurable pastime once the shine went off the new ball and the wind and sunshine took effect in helping to harden the top surface.
Earlier, opener Daniel Bell-Drummond had succumbed cheaply to Keith Barker – the clear pick of Warwickshire’s attack first time around with five for 32. Barker saw two worthy leg before decisions turned aside before running one across the right-hander and enticing him to nick one to the keeper.
Barker also accounted for in-form Heino Kuhn, moving one back in through the air to snare the former Proteas Test opener flush in front to bring acting captain Denly and Dickson together.
The pair, who had notched Kent’s only other championship centuries of the summer at Bristol during the previous round of matches, combined to add 208 trouble-free runs and set a Kent third-wicket record against Warwickshire, surpassing the 186 made by Bill Ashdown and Les Ames at Edgbaston in 1934.
Jeetan Patel, the Warwickshire captain might have made life tougher for the pair by posting a third man when something like 25 per cent of their runs came through the gap, but instead they were allowed to bat through the middle session unfettered.
Patel made amends by removing both soon after tea with his off-spinners. Dickson’s 229-ball stay for 133 ended when he played across a quicker ball to depart lbw. Then, turning one in from well outside off, he won an ambitious lbw shout that ended Denley’s 88-ball stay for a polished 119.
Patel mystified some pundits later on by delaying taking the second new ball for five overs before finally throwing the new cherry to Keith Barker, comfortably his most potent threat in taking five for 32 in Kent’s first innings.
When Barker did get the new ball he quickly removed Darren Stevens, following one outside off to be caught behind, before trapping Rouse leg before with a full in-swinger.
With Kent six down and already leading by 410 runs, Barker blotted his copybook by running on the pitch for the second time to be taken out of the attack by umpire Steve O’Shaughnessy.
With Barker out of their attack, Kent rookie Zak Crawley reached an eye-catching 47 through to stumps to deepen Warwickshire’s parlous position. The visitors will know they will have to bat superbly to save this game, let alone win it.