Key cannot escape 'long week in Derby'
Derbyshire 118 (Hughes 36*, Bollinger 5-29, Stevens 5-24) and 106 for 0 (Moore 73*) drew with Kent 236 for 6 dec (Nash 95*)
Rob Key, now officially in his dotage two days after his 35th birthday, showed himself to have it in him still to be a bold, imaginative and calculating captain. Well perhaps not so very bold because there was no prospect of his Kent side losing at the County Ground, but at least he made a declaration of intent to try to force a win. In the event it came to nothing, but a patient crowd appreciated seeing something resembling a competition for a couple of hours.
When Sam Billings skied a crude slog to the wicketkeeper, with Kent 15 runs short of a second batting bonus point and Brendan Nash five short of a century, Key called off Kent's innings. There were 49 overs left in the day and Kent led by 117.
In the first innings they had bowled out Derbyshire for 118 in the same number of overs. Key had a cunning plan. When play began, mercifully on time, the overs count for the match was 52 bowled and 233 lost, and there appeared to be scant prospect of a positive result barring some contrivance, and the captains were unable or unwilling to agree on such a plan.
Key's day began badly. Both openers fell cheaply to catches behind the wicket by Gareth Cross. There was nothing controversial about Sam Northeast's nick off Mark Footitt, but Key was distinctly disgruntled, in fact nigh on incredulous, when umpire Peter Willey judged that he had edged Tony Palladino.
It was a morning mostly for statisticians. When Daniel Bell-Drummond inexplicably shouldered arms and lost his middle stump it gave Tim Groenewald his 250th first class wicket - 50 overs after he took his 249th.
When Nash clobbered David Wainwright over mid-on for six he simultaneously brought up his 50 and took his side past Derbyshire's total. As well his boundaries, 15 of Nash's runs had come in 3s. After lunch, Ben Harmison and Darren Stevens both fell to outstanding catches in the outfield. When a change of gloves was sent out to Nash, for the next five overs Nash and Billings went for it.
Sam Billings sacrificed his wicket and Key sacrificed sentiment when he said to Nash, sorry, no century today. Perhaps it was of some consolation to him that he passed 7000 first class runs when he entered the 90s.
In Derbyshire's first innings swing and seam had done for them, but that was not in warm sunshine on a dry pitch, which is what we had today. Stephen Moore attacked from the outset and his 55-ball half century contained ten boundaries. He proceeded to 73 and he and his fellow opener were still together when a draw was agreed at 5 o'clock. So much then for the cunning plan.
Key was a disappointed but realistic man. "I thought if we could get a lead approaching 150 and give ourselves 50 overs to bowl at them, we'd have a chance. But the pitch was unbelievably flat considering it was basically two days old." He paid tribute to Brendan Nash's innings, and to the way in which he's become a more assertive batsman in his two years with Kent. Asked about denying him his century, Key said: "They had nearly all their fielders out and we needed the time to have a chance." When asked how he would be feeling on the journey down the M1 he said simply: "It's been a long old week in Derby."