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June 9, 2014
Kent 387 and 35 for 0 trail Essex 440 (Bopara 162, Westley 116, Claydon 5-82) by 18 runs
Perhaps Essex were right to embark on a harum-scarum chase for maximum batting points in a game most likely to end as a draw but their limited-overs style pursuit of 400 cost them any chance of establishing a daunting first-innings lead.
At 361 for 3 this afternoon, the visitors were just 26 runs behind Kent and apparently in prime position to press on towards the 500-plus total that century-maker Ravi Bopara identified the previous evening as being the main requirement.
For better or worse, though, captain James Foster had his eyes set on reaching 400 before the end of the 110th over, thereby earning a full set of batting points. And reach it Essex did - but by the skin of their teeth and at a cost of five more wickets as a touch of T20 drama came to Championship cricket.
It was great fun to watch, especially when Essex almost 'died in the hole' by losing three batsmen in the space of six deliveries with the total stuck on 399. But Kent were probably even happier than their opponents when the dust settled.
In fairness to Foster and the Essex think tank, the loss of 19 overs during a rain-hit morning session made a mess of any calculations they might have cooked up the previous evening. But there was still just about enough time for them to score in excess of 500 and still have an hour or so at Kent this evening (or there would have been but for another heavy shower around tea time that removed a further 20 overs from the allocation).
Indeed, that appeared to be the plan as the two hundred-makers, Bopara and Tom Westley, attempted to bed in again during the morning. And nothing much changed when first Westley - after sharing in a second wicket stand of 243 - and then Jesse Ryder fell to the deserving Mitch Claydon.
But then in came Foster at No. 5, ahead of both Ben Foakes and Ryan ten Doeschate, to step on the accelerator with a bright and breezy, near run-a-ball innings of 46 that included five fours and a swept six off Darren Stevens.
At 361 for 3 in the 104th over, Essex were in a position to have their cake (full batting points) and eat it (making 500-plus). But then Foster was well caught by keeper Sam Billings, standing up to the stumps against Stevens' medium-pace, and the fun and games began.
Bopara's long innings ended on 162 as he attempted to force Ben Harmison off the back foot, then ten Doeschate - having guided Essex to 399 - put the cat among the pigeons by edging the same bowler.
The visitors only needed one run at the start of the 110th over. But spinner Adam Riley made sure it was touch and go with a clever piece of bowling to defeat an ambitious drive by Foakes before enticing Monty Panesar - somehow batting at No. 9 - to drive a catch to mid-on while trying to clear the infield.
Now Essex needed a single off the final ball of the over, Riley's delivery was too short and Tymal Mills did the necessary with a confident pull. Phew! Missing out on both bonus point and big total would have been careless in the extreme.
In hindsight, perhaps they should have sent in Mills ahead of Panesar and David Masters. The fast bowler bludgeoned his way to 30 in no time, helped by a six driven so sweetly off Riley that the ball ended in the top tier of the Colin Cowdrey Stand at long-on.
Essex were dismissed soon after play resumed following the final rain break of the day, giving them 15 overs at Kent. A lead of 53 was not enough to create unbearable scoreboard pressure, however, and the hosts survived unscathed.
David Lloyd is a former chief cricket correspondent of PA and the Evening StandardFeeds: David Lloyd
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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