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David Lloyd at Canterbury
September 4, 2012
Derbyshire 32 for 1 trail Kent 261 (Jones 80, Groenewald 3-63) by 229 runs
No-one, least of all Derbyshire's long-suffering supporters, expected the last leg of the second division title race to be a stroll in the park. But just in case anyone associated with the county was starting to get even a little giddy as Kent lost half their wickets for only 93 runs, up popped Geraint Jones to dampen down premature excitement.
Kent, it must be remembered, are themselves in the thick of a promotion battle that has twisted and turned for most of this season. And in Jones, the former England wicketkeeper, they had an ideal man to transform a sickly-looking innings into something reasonably healthy.
Jones is 36 now and in negotiations for a new contract. Well, he may have failed by 20 runs today to record his first Championship century of the season but it was still the sort of knock that should help to convince the Canterbury hierarchy that he is well worth another couple of years.
The innings, spanning 136 balls and including nine fours, was timely on two counts. Firstly, it kept third-placed Kent well and truly in this match. And secondly it was a fitting way to mark a fine achievement: by playing today, Jones has totted up 100 consecutive Championship appearances - something only nine other Kent players have managed in the long history of the county.
Whether Kent will be playing their four-day cricket in the first division next season is very much undecided. But it will take a horrible "choke" for Derbyshire to miss out on promotion - and on the evidence of what was witnessed today, they look to be made of sterner stuff than that.
Kent's decision to bat first in glorious sunshine seemed straightforward. But the visitors bowled with such discipline that the hosts could not get away to anything like a fluent start.
Tony Palladino and Tim Goenewald, with 87 championship wickets between them going into this match, have been an excellent opening pair all season. This time, though, it was first change Mark Turner who achieved the initial breakthrough - removing Rob Key with the help of a stunning leg-side catch by Tom Poynton, who reached a genuine glance after a full length dive.
Groenewald then got to work and, before they knew it, Kent had lost half their wickets with fewer than 100 runs on the board. And there were a couple of opportunities for Derbyshire to turn the screw good and tight.
Before he had scored, Jones edged Palladino towards second slip where Usman Khawaja appeared to reach but could not hold the chance. Then, on 11, Jones pushed to mid-off and went in search of an extremely risk single - so risky, in fact, that he would almost certainly have been out had Wayne Madsen's throw hit timber instead of narrowly missing the non-striker's wicket.
From then on, the hosts began to recover with Mike Powell, Matt Coles and Mark Davies all contributing to useful stands with Jones. A couple more opportunities came and went but Derbyshire never looked remotely ragged and duly cleaned up the tail once the second new ball became available.
Jones was ninth out, edging Groenewald to the keeper. But Kent were not quite done for the day. With opener Paul Borrington having broken his nose (he is expected to bat on day two) through deflecting a ball into his face while fielding at mid-wicket, Khawaja moved up a place in the batting order. But not for long. He looked aghast to be given out lbw when well forward to Davies.
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