Masters gives Essex hope to beat weather
Kent 107 (Masters 6-41) and 8 for 0 trail Essex 276 (Shah 84, Foakes 58, Davies 4-67) by 161 runs
It's the lot of a bowler that much of their success can be attributed to batsman error. With video clips and a modicum of technical nous, even the most memorable deliveries can be stripped of their pomp: "Why was Michael Clarke trying to work Steven Harmison's slower-ball through the leg-side, anyway?"
As such, it's important that displays like Essex's on day two, when their trio of seam bowlers dove-tailed brilliantly to hound Kent out for 107 in their first innings, are treated with the respect they deserve. Much of the plaudits will go to David Masters for his 6 for 41 - his third five-wicket haul of the season - but Graham Napier and Reece Topley deserve recognition for their parts in a relentless display.
Forever the leader of the attack, Masters instigated the rout with two spells before tea - taking two wickets in each - that gutted the hosts' top order with consummate ease. He looked almost unplayable, either beating batsmen outright, or luring them into a false sense of security with some smart approach play, and reaping the payback. The wicket of Daniel Bell-Drummond summed up the disparity between bat and Masters in this mini-session perfectly.
With Bell-Drummond unable to score a run off Masters's previous eight deliveries, playing and missing outside off stump as he tried to remain positive on the front foot, James Foster had a cunning plan.
Reinforcing the slip cordon to four, with a man at point, he asked Jaik Mickleburgh to helmet up and come in - quite literally - under Bell-Drummond's nose. With the man in place at daft-cover, a bat-pad dismissal was now in play. Perhaps realising that only a perfect forward defence would avoid such a demise, Bell-Drummond played away from his body, leaving an inviting gap. Masters is too good not to exploit even the minutest of flaws, and took out the middle stump.
A switch to the Nackington Road End only provided a change in backdrop, as he bowled Rob Key and then trapped the dangerous Darren Stevens in front. Along with Napier's wicket of Brendan Nash, the pair had seen off Kent's three key batsmen - each with over 900 Championship runs this season - for just 11 runs between them.
Napier bagged the sixth wicket, trapping Geraint Jones in his crease, and then treated us to one of the balls of the day; a sharp inswinger from the Pavilion End that uprooted the left-handed Callum Haggett's leg-stump with such malice that middle and off needed counselling.
Topley was then rewarded with his first wicket of the day when Mark Davies swiped wildly to become the fourth batsmen to fall bowled. He was unlucky not to have more, bowling with great control and minimal luck, particularly in his third over, when a hat-trick of lbw appeals were turned down against Key.
Fittingly, Masters finished what he started, with two wickets in two balls to leave Kent with a first innings deficit of 169. Naturally, with a forecast of rain over the next two days, Essex enforced the follow-on. Just three hours after they first came to the middle, Sam Northeast and Rob Key were out again to see out the day.
Credit, too, for Foster, who ensured he used all 10 of the overs left in the Kent second innings, with four going to spin, with the umpires ready to walk off for bad light in the second over, just as Topley was loosening up to share the new ball.
Earlier in the day, Foster scored 46 of the 90 runs that Essex's last six wickets added. Owais Shah could only add one to his overnight score, while Ben Foakes scored his third fifty of the season, before he chased a wide ball from Charlie Shreck which he could only edge to slip. Once Napier fell, the onus was on the captain to shepherd the tail, and he did so impressively; rotating well with the more-than-capable Masters, before farming the strike when in partnership with Panesar and Topley.
Should they replicate today's bowling performance tomorrow, they will comprehensively trump Kent and Mother Nature.