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David Lloyd at Canterbury
September 5, 2012
Kent 261 and 59 for 3 lead Derbyshire 200 (Madesen 64, Davies 5-27) by 120 runs
Can history repeat itself? Derbyshire are left hoping that it will after Mark Davies collected his first five-wicket bag of the season to given Kent a clear but certainly not decisive advantage at the halfway stage of this crucial contest between two promotion contenders.
A month ago, in the reverse fixture, Derbyshire managed to come from a long way behind to secure a thrilling two-wicket victory that kept them top of the second division table and prevented Kent from moving to the head of affairs.
Now, with just one more round of fixtures remaining, the stakes are higher still. And it may take an equally spectacular fightback to deny Kent, who were wonderfully served today by the impressive Davies.
Released from his contract by Durham, shortly before the season began, the 31-year-old opening bowler has been a model of consistency all campaign. Spell after spell has ended with him conceding fewer than two runs an over and that relentless pressure must have helped Charlie Shreck, his new-ball partner, to prosper. But while Shreck has more than 50 Championship wickets in the bank, Davies had to settle for slimmer picking - until today.
Having totalled 261 - a competitive but not commanding first-innings total on a pitch providing a good contest between bat and ball - Kent knew they had to bowl with great discipline when Derbyshire resumed on 32 for 1. And there are few better bowlers than Davies for that sort of job.
Despite having his career plagued by injuries, he has captured the thick end of 300 first-class wickets at a cost of little more than 22 runs apiece and with an economy rate of around 2.5 an over. No wonder England seriously considered him three years ago - and little surprise that he put the squeeze on Derbyshire here.
Shreck did not give much away. He was almost generous, though, compared to Davies who began the second day with six consecutive maidens - one of them the wicketed variety. Wes Durston, trying to knock the bowler off his length, went for a lofted drive over mid-on but succeeded only in skying a catch to mid-off where the back-pedalling Alex Blake did well to hang on.
In all, the first hour produced 18 runs from 16 overs and, well though Wayne Madsen, the Derbyshire captain, was playing, Kent had applied a suffocating hold from which they did not escape until it was almost too late.
Vitally, the leaders lost five wickets for 23 runs either side of lunch. And, deservedly, three of them went to Davies, in the space of 11 deliveries. The most significant victim was Madsen, who chopped on for 64 while looking to fashion a cut.
Davies finished with 5 for 27 from 18 overs, figures which will no doubt have at least some Durham supporters wondering whether a good 'un has been allowed to get away too soon.
But while Davies had done more than his bit, Derbyshire were not ready to roll over. They have shown their fighting qualities all season, not just against Kent a month ago, and here they managed to turn 112 for 7 into 200 all out, earning a precious batting point in the process.
Kent helped a bit, mind. Rob Key dropped a relatively straightforward catch at first slip when Tom Poynton had scored 6 - and the wicketkeeper, who posted his maiden first-class century, against Northants a fortnight ago, went on to contribute 45.
The generosity did not end there, either. Tim Groenewald converted 2 into 22 after Adam Riley had grassed a lower, more difficult opportunity in the slip cordon with both chances being missed off the bowling of medium-pacer Darren Stevens.
Kent had a first-innings lead of 61, but even that began to look a little shaky as three wickets in the last five or so overs of the day allowed Derbyshire to leave the field with a spring in their step.
The ball is turning for Wes Durston, who bowled Key behind his legs and 'gated' the nightwatchman Davies, and for David Wainwright, who had Alex Blake caught behind off the final delivery. And the match itself could yet turn several more ways before it is done and dusted.
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