Below is my report of the first day’s play in the LV County Championship game between Kent and Middlesex at the St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury on Wednesday 17th August 2011.
Rob Key, returning to the Kent side after sitting out the two recent CB40 matches nursing his troublesome wrist injury, won the toss on a bright morning at the St Lawrence Ground and elected to bat. Azhar Mahmood, fresh from his all-round heroics the night before in the thrilling CB40 win over the same opponents, replacing the injured Simon Cook, was the only change in the Kent team that had beaten Surrey equally impressively in the Championship game of Canterbury Week.
Openers Key and Joe Denly played watchfully against the accurate opening attack of Murtagh and Collymore, both of whom extracted some bounce and a little movement. The opening 11 overs brought just 13 runs, with the only boundary coming from an edge by Denly between third slip and gully. Only when Crook replaced Collymore did Denly open up with two expansive back foot drives through the off side for successive boundaries.
Despite his excellent recent form in the four day game, Key struggled in particular, playing and missing on several occasions. When he did play his first shot in anger – a handsome cover drive – it was brilliantly fielded.
The predominantly blue skies gave way to an off white cloud cover that began to provide more assistance for the Middlesex seamers. Crook was unlucky when he induced Denly to snick two deliveries past third slip for four, though the opener followed this with two further boundaries with sumptuous straight and off drives off Collymore. The introduction of the Middlesex captain, Neil Dexter, into the attack was greeted by Denly with two more powerful drives through extra cover and mid off.
Key continued to struggle, particularly against Collymore, finally edging an outswinger to Malan at first slip for 17 with the score at 61. Sam Northeast, fresh from his mature fifty in the previous evening’s match, started in confident mood, but was caught behind by Simpson off Crook shortly before lunch for 3, leaving Kent 71 for 2. Denly responded with a cover drive off the same bowler to bring up a fine half century, and Kent went to lunch at 77 for 2.
A highly entertaining afternoon session brought 165 runs and 8 wickets. Martin van Jaarsveld, who had failed to score in the CB40 match, made just two before being caught behind off Crook with the score at 83. Denly followed just four runs later when he was given out, perhaps a little unluckily again, leg before to Tim Murtagh for a fine 55.
Darren Stevens and Geraint Jones steadied the ship with a stand of 45, mostly by virtue of expansive drives, before the latter was adjudged leg before to Collymore for 26. The hero of the previous evening, Mahmood, joined Stevens but anxious to get off the mark off his first ball, he failed to get back in his crease in time to beat the bowler Collymore’s javelin-like throw.
Kent were now 132 for 6, which soon became 155 for 8 as, firstly, Stevens played tamely onto his stumps off Dexter for 27 and Ball edged Collymore to Dalrymple at second slip for 8. James Tredwell and Matt Coles added a breezy 57 for the ninth wicket with a series of thumping drives and judicious sweeps befpre Tredwell became the second player to chop onto his stumps off Collymore for 31.
Wahab Riaz’s arrival at the wicket placed Coles in the unfamiliar role of senior batsman, and he appeared to take that responsibility seriously by advising the Pakistani international that he should curb his natural game whilst he was left to play his shots. In fact, Riaz acquitted himself well, even contributing equally to a final wicket stand of 30. He was left 17 not out when Coles, much to his and the crowd’s disappointment, pulled Murtagh to the mid wicket boundary nine short of what would have been a deserved fifty, a fitting achievement for what was probably his most mature innings in the Championship side.
Kent were all out for 242, falling eight short of a second batting point. Collymore was the pick of the Middlesex bowlers, taking 4 for 69 whilst Murtagh and Crook both took two wickets. Tea was taken at this point.
Middlesex began their innings with 31 overs remaining in the day, and a very late finish on the cards. However, increased cloud cover and slight drizzle called a halt to their innings after just 13 overs at a relatively untroubled 55 for no wicket, 187 behind the home side. Robson, who had been the main aggressor, was 37 not out and his partner, Newman, 16 not out at the close.
The state of play at the end of the first day is almost identical to the previous week’s match against Surrey when Kent made 266 and their adversaries proceeded comfortably to 50 for no wicket. Largely by virtue of Darren Stevens’s career best bowling figures of 7-21, Kent skittled Surrey out for 127 the next morning and went on to win by a massive 265 runs following a second collapse by the visitors on the third afternoon in very poor light.
Away from the action on the field, the day’s highlight was undoubtedly the continuing, and largely unwitting, entertainment provided by the Club’s new tannoy announcer. Having jettisoned the bizarre “bowled lbw” form of dismissal, he still delights by telling us about changes in the bowling AFTER they have taken place, often prefacing it “as you may have already noticed”! And it would appear that Middlesex now have three members of the Murtagh family in their side, as today their bowling attack included Tim, Timothy and even James!
Footnote: Despite the unpromising position that Kent found themselves at the end of this first day, they went on to secure another impressive win over promotion-chasing Middlesex by 65 runs on the last evening.