Denly ends hundred drought to lift Kent
Kent 376 for 3 v Leicestershire
Joe Denly scored his first County Championship hundred since 2009 as Kent's batsmen enjoyed a prolific opening day in the bottom-of-the-table Division Two clash against Leicestershire at Tunbridge Wells.
By stumps Kent were 376 for 3, with 25-year-old Denly making 143 before he was bowled by Matthew Hoggard with the second new ball. Rob Key had earlier hit 91, also a season's best for him, in a first-wicket stand of 198 with Denly, while Sam Northeast scored 99 before being dismissed by what became the last ball of the day.
Northeast, trying to get to three figures before the close, attempted to flick a ball from Andrew McDonald wide of mid-on and was lbw to the fifth delivery of the 96th over. Kent, anchored to the foot of the Division Two after losing four of their first six Championship games, have targeted this match against second-from-bottom Leicestershire to try to reverse their fortunes after an injury-ravaged opening seven weeks of the season.
Importantly, Key won the toss and first use of an excellent pitch and, on a blustery day, set about a Leicestershire attack missing England Lions fast bowler Nathan Buck, who has a stress fracture of the foot.
By lunch Kent were 134 without loss, and it was almost an hour after lunch before the opening pair were split when Key drilled a return catch to seamer McDonald. The Kent captain had faced 146 balls, hitting nine fours and a six over long-on off slow left-armer Claude Henderson.
But Denly was then joined in an equally productive second-wicket partnership of 140 by Northeast, as the two young Kent-born batsmen kept up the pressure on Hoggard's team. There were 19 fours in Denly's hundred, made from 147 balls, while Northeast found the boundary ten times in his half-century, which came up off 80 balls.
Denly has made three centuries and three ducks in his last six first-class innings at Tunbridge Wells and this was his 11th first-class hundred. Last season he made only 610 runs in County Championship cricket, at an average of 21, and this summer he had previously scored just 82 runs from eight championship innings and had also suffered a broken finger.
The 21-year-old Northeast, who made 112 in the first match of the season at Essex, has also largely struggled for runs, but this fluent innings underlined his rich promise. It was just a shame for him that he played across the line in the final over of the day - in search of what would have been a third championship hundred - instead of waiting to complete it at the start of the second day.
Northeast's 99 came from 157 balls, with 15 fours, while Denly faced 247 balls in all and hit 22 fours. Denly and Key's partnership was the first century stand for any Kent wicket this season, and was full of superlative shots.
A fast outfield meant that Denly, Key and Northeast gained full value for their strokeplay, and their fine batting has already given Kent a big advantage in this game.