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April 23, 2014
Kent 269 for 7 (Bell-Drummond 58) and 89 for 4 drew with Leicestershire 333 (Boyce 68, Ireland 52) and 259 for 5 dec (Smith 118, Robson 81)
For Leicestershire, the Canterbury pitch was too good and the memories of failure still too painful. They were the whipping boys too often last season, cast adrift at the foot of Division Two, to contemplate a more daring declaration on the final day against Kent. The game died a slow death as they bolstered their own sense of wellbeing. There was much wellbeing to be had, but it came at a cost.
Ah well, these things happen. Perhaps it was understandable. You do not take so many beatings without it having a negative effect. The batting form of Greg Smith and Angus Robson is a good thing. But there were times when both these counties were in denial over the fact that the first day had been lost to rain. They played at a four-day tempo in a three-day match.
Professional honour was satisfied perhaps: form rediscovered in the case of Smith, who struck his first Championship century for three years, the beginnings of a career forged as far as Robson was concerned, but judging by the lack of atmosphere at this game Championship crowds are dwindling at Canterbury. Neither will they exactly be clamouring at the gates at Grace Road at the weekend.
Kent were set a notional 324 in 42 but, with a little more enterprise from Kent's batsmen on the second evening and Leicestershire, likewise, for a brief period on the final afternoon, it was easy to imagine a target of, say, 360 in 60 which might just have been a game worth watching.
For Leicestershire to take four cheap Kent wickets in a dead game before proceedings were halted at 5.35pm represented a strong finale but it should have been cause for creeping frustration. Kent doubtless presumed a call off 45 minutes earlier but they lost Sam Northeast to a first-ball duck, a firm return drive to Charlie Shreck, Rob Key was caught off the shoulder of the bat at gully on the stroke of tea, and two more wickets obliged Leicestershire to keep going.
Not many spectators felt the same way. "Should we just go and plant on the tomatoes, dear," said one to her husband shortly before Leicestershire's declaration in mid-afternoon at 259 for 5. The answer was affirmative. They slowly got up from their seats and left.
Championship crowds are elderlyand there is no reason to denigrate that, but Kent's are more elderly than most and there are not as many of them as there used to be. When the PA announcer talks of children's days for £1 or of downloading the app, one wonders who he is talking to. The game cannot afford much disillusionment, especially on the days when it is avoidable.
Two Leicestershire batsmen walked off with bats raised in satisfaction after lunch. Smith had his century in the bag (no Leicestershire opener had made a Championship hundred since Michael Thornely at Chelmsford in August 2012) and Robson a career-best 81 from 105 balls, their third-wicket stand worth 147 in 33 overs. It was an excellent stand, too, but it should have been climaxed with an almighty thrash from the lower order.
Sam Robson is tipped for an England debut, perhaps against Sri Lanka in June. His brother, Angus, is less well known but his maiden Championship 50 was easy on the eye. He was strong on the back foot through point, like so many Australia-reared players, and displayed slick footwork against the offspin of Adam Riley.
One wishes him well, if only because it would make a great film were he to score abundant runs but, unlike Sam, stay loyal to Australia and oppose his brother in an Ashes Test. If the Aussies make the film, the hero will be obvious, and probably possess more stubble. If it is made in Britain, it will be awash with self-doubt.
The reality, though, was a decent innings against an ordinary attack on a sound fourth-day surface. He energised the game from the moment he reached the crease. Leicestershire should enjoy him before, as usually happens, a raiding party comes to town. Riley dismissed both Smith and Robson, the latter to a low catch at short mid-on.
Riley is a tall offspin bowler with an easy action and an ability to gain bounce. Without stretching a point, Riley bears some resemblance to Peter Such, the ECB spin bowling coach, who was here on Tuesday to watch him, as well no doubt as catching up on the bowling health of James Tredwell, an England bowler seeking rhythm during a Kent/Essex joint 2nd XI against Durham at Billericay. There is a strong argument for Riley to keep his Championship place; he is the coming man.
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