Kent fall short on Ladies' Day
Kent 226 (Powell 62) and 9 for 3 trail Essex 273 (Foster 76, Wheater 82, Shreck 5-51) by 38 runs
Even if they were to win Friday night's jackpot on the Euromillions lottery, it is doubtful whether Kent could buy a championship win just now.
Having allowed Hampshire to claim a surprise draw at the Ageas Bowl a fortnight ago, Kent then slid to a shock two-wicket defeat at Derby having, in their eyes at least, dominated all but two sessions of the match.
Then just when it appeared Rob Key's side's fortunes were changing for the better, Essex's skipper James Foster inspired a comeback that could yet leave Kent on the wrong end of another result on Kentish soil.
All had looked rosy in the Garden of England an hour into the second day, Ladies Day at Canterbury Week. Essex had slumped to 23 for 4, Kent's seamers Charlie Shreck and Matt Coles were at times unplayable as they hooped the new ball under steamy, overcast skies and even the Shepherd Neame bitter tasted like nectar.
In reply to Kent's first day total of 226, Essex had lost opener Jaik Mickleburgh to a good tumbling catch behind the stumps off Shreck, then Tom Westley, leg before to a Coles in- ducker. Owais Shah hooked his second ball from Coles over the ropes at mid-wicket, but Coles had his revenge by having Shah caught at slip without addition.
Mark Pettini was squared up by a Shreck snorter, an away-swinger which pitched on middle and clipped the top of off. When Ryan ten Doeschate chased a wide one from Stevens on the cusp of lunch to make it 76 for 5, Kent scented a useful first innings lead. How wrong they were.
James Foster emerged to play an inspiring, game-changing, backs-to- the-wall knock that quite simply knocked the stuffing out of Kent.
In relatively high temperatures for this summer, around 24C, and in high humidity Foster dogged it out for four and three-quarter hours, facing 226 balls for a modest return of five boundaries as Kent ran out of ideas to dislodge him.
In tandem with Adam Wheater, Foster helped add 126 in 33.2 overs for the sixth wicket. Every run was hard-earned, yet fully deserved.
Foster's tenacity allowed Wheater to play with more freedom and his eye-catching innings of 82 included a dozen crisply-timed boundaries, many of them aerial. Wheater undid much of his good work just before tea when a reckless, pre-empted reverse sweep against spinner Adam Riley led to his demise leg before.
It was no matter to Foster though. He teamed up with Graham Napier after the interval to add another precious 52 runs before Kent finally enjoyed further success with the second new ball.
Foster nicked a Darren Stevens away-swinger to slip to go for 76 then Napier followed soon after, pocketed by Geraint Jones off the wily Charlie Shreck, whose next ball removed David Masters to a catch in the cordon. Although Maurice Chambers survived the hat-trick delivery, Shreck dismissed him at slip two overs later to finish with a creditable 5- 51, his second five-for since moving from Nottinghamshire.
Bouyed by their surprise 47-run lead, Essex set about reducing the Kent faithful to a whimpering wrecks by stumps as they prized out three batsmen within 21 balls. Key, though he clearly disagreed, was given caught behind down the leg-side when attempting to glance at Napier, the nightwatchman Riley had his stumps rearranged by Chambers then Harbhajan Singh out-foxed Sam Northeast to win a leg before appeal to the last ball of the day.
Now, about those lottery numbers!