Balcombe six puts Kent in charge
Kent 160 for 5 v Essex 144
Overcast conditions and a sporting pitch gave the bowlers the edge in Canterbury, where 15 wickets fell on the opening day of Kent's County Championship Division Two clash with neighbours Essex.
Having rolled over the visitors for 144, Kent limped to 160 for 5 for a meagre lead of 16 on a wicket that might yet catch the eye of ECB pitch liaison officers come day two. Responding to Essex's modest first-innings total, Kent - who were without injured captain and opening batsman Rob Key - posted 51 for the first wicket before Daniel Bell-Drummond was stumped by James Foster off former Kent seamer David Masters.
In-form Joe Denly coasted to a 48-ball 50 and appeared in little until another one from Masters kept a little low to snare the right-hander leg before and make it 79 for 2. Sam Northeast fenced at one from Masters that climbed off the pitch to steer a catch to first slip, then Darren Stevens paid the price for an ambitious drive against Ryan ten Doeschate that rattled middle and off stumps.
Martin van Jaarsveld limped to 17 before he too went leg before, although he appeared to get a slight inside edge on the delivery from ten Doeschate, but James Tredwell (15 not out) and acting skipper Geraint Jones (16no) took Kent into the lead in surviving through to the close.
Visitors Essex lost five wickets during an overcast first session after winning the toss and electing to bat first. After an accurate new-ball stint from Matt Coles and Stevens, it took the sixth ball of the day from on-loan David Balcombe to fashion Kent's first breakthrough after 14 overs.
Billy Godleman's late decision to shoulder arms proved costly when the ball jagged back in to trim the left-hander's off stump and make it 25 for 1. Owais Shah lasted five deliveries before he pushed down the wrong line of a swinging delivery to go leg before to Stevens.
And, with 31 against his name, Tom Westley drove airily at a Steven's away swinger only to snick to second slip. Balcombe, in the second month of his temporary move from Hampshire, impressed again by having Adam Wheater caught at backward point after the diminutive right-hander had seemingly checked and sliced an attempted cover drive.
In the over before lunch Jaik Mickleburgh, in trying to withdraw his bat, only succeeded in gloving the ball onto his stump to give Balcombe a third wicket. The batsman then spent much of the afternoon having his hand X-rayed.
The Essex innings simply unravelled after the break as they lost their last five wickets for 69 runs to be dismissed just after 3pm. Captain James Foster top-scored with a watchful 38 from 75 balls before skying a slower ball to extra cover as Balcombe marched towards career-best figures of 6 for 51.
It was Balcombe's third haul of five wickets or more in an innings in his four championship starts for Kent, and took his championship wickets tally to 20.