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Alex Winter at Canterbury
April 22, 2012
Kent 150 (W Gidman 5-43) and 94 for 2 drew with Gloucestershire 255 and 257 for 7 dec.
A mundane final afternoon had both coaches shrugging their shoulders at the outcome. Steady progress with an inexperienced squad was the conclusion of both Jimmy Adams and John Bracewell after the opening three weeks of the season.
This was the second draw for Kent, flanking a big win at Northampton last week, and Adams, Kent's head coach, is very content with the start his new county have made. And why not? He has cobbled together a fresh team - six new players in this side from last season - and they have avoided defeat against one and comprehensively beaten another side that was challenging for promotion last season, and almost beaten highly-fancied Yorkshire on their own turf. These three results are quite a fillip for the new regime.
"I'm fairly happy with where we are," Adams said. "We're trying to build something that will hopefully last for a long time. You're seeing signs that the squad is coming together. Things could have gone terribly wrong with the lead that Gloucester had but I think in the second innings the boys kept going and it augurs well for the challenges ahead."
Kent were bowled out for 150 in the first innings to concede a lead of 105 but played out the final afternoon with ease. Nothing happened at all for the bowlers.
Kent threatened only twice with the ball the previous day - their wickets on the final morning all coming as Gloucestershire set up their declaration - and then Gloucestershire similarly were unable to create anything. The wicket was fine to bat on throughout the match but as the conditions eased - the final day brought the best weather of the game - the swing that caused problems in both first innings evaporated.
The two wickets Gloucestershire took were due to errors on the part of the batsman. Scott Newman flashed and edged a Will Gidman length ball outside off and Ben Harmison holed out to deep midwicket. But Rob Key, so often everything good about Kent, made an unbeaten 32.
It was an easy escape. But Adams is a little concerned with the size of his squad, many of whom have picked up niggles: the backroom staff are already busy. Kent aren't blessed with playing resources but two batsman, Sam Northeast and Daniel Bell-Drummond, are two very talented players to whom Adams will be able to turn.
"Sam has had first-class experience and is someone we're looking to make an impact before the end of the season," Adams said of Northeast, who scored 166 against Durham 2nd XI last week. "It's fantastic that he's done as well as he has - an immediate reply to not being in the first eleven which is good, just showing everybody that he's as ready as he could be. It's a good sign."
Kent also have 18-year-old Daniel Bell-Drummond, perhaps the most exciting young batsman in the country. He scored 287 runs in five matches as England reached the semi-final of the Under 19 World Cup.
"The main thing is that we have young players who are showing the capacity to perform," Adams said. "You want young players who want to perform and have a history of performing consistently and Daniel is showing that at a very tender age. He's coming to grips with what I think is a very important part of a young player's development: consistent performance."
While Kent can at least look to some talent in reserve, Gloucestershire have no such insurance. Their success - this draw followed a win at Hampshire and a heavy defeat at Essex - will very much depend on keeping their squad fit. David Payne will be out of action for at least two weeks but his side strain could be more serious.
"I'm very concerned about the size of our squad," John Bracewell, Gloucestershire's director of cricket, said. "It's a small squad with young guys who are going to get injured. They are not as resilient as more seasoned pros."
Bracewell said Benny Howell "looks a good cricketer". Howell made his debut here and scored an impressive 44 on the first day, the most difficult time to bat. Financial constrains make the possibility of a contract for him, or anyone else, a sticking point but a problem that will have to be overcome. "The loan market may have to be an option otherwise we're going to have to play amateurs."
The squad will be boosted by Kane Williamson's arrival but visa delays mean he might not arrive in time for Gloucestershire's next match against Glamorgan. Daniel Flynn was expected to replace Williamson when he leaves for New Zealand's tour of the West Indies but now Flynn is also in contention for a place on that tour.
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