Dogged Denly displays Kent colours
Kent 252 (Jarvis 4-50) and 148-3 (Denly 60) trail Lancashire 444 (Prince 106, Davies 99, Horton 71, Claydon 4-103) by 44 runs
When it was announced in the close season that Joe Denly was to return to Kent from Middlesex, many saw it as a talented batsman's attempt to rediscover his best form at the county where he is best loved. Once an England one-day player with an exciting international future before him, Denly's form had declined at Lord's and the Canterbury-born cricketer's move back home was widely seen as a good move.
Now all he needs to do is score some runs, which is easier advised that accomplished for an opening batsman on April's pitches. Managing just three runs in two innings on a seamer's pitch at Chelmsford could have happened to anyone but this Old Trafford wicket has few scorpions in it for players prepared to get their heads down and graft a bit.
Which was exactly what Denly did on the third day of the game against Lancashire, and Kent supporters will hope that his 60 in 176 minutes is merely the portent of things to come at Canterbury, Tunbridge Wells and all stations north and west.
Certainly Denly's diligence and old-fashioned application exemplified the vastly more responsible approach adopted by Kent's batsmen after they had been bowled out for 252 in the first innings of this game. With rain around, Lancashire's bowlers fresh and a first-innings lead of 192 with which to play, it was merely common sense for Steven Croft to enforce the follow on in the middle of the morning session and the neutrals waited rather nervously in the hope that Rob Key's batsmen would avoid making quite such a mess of their task second time around.
Those neutrals need not have worried. Denly and Daniel Bell-Drummond put on 34 in the 12 overs that were possible before lunch and, though Bell-Drummond was caught by wicketkeeper Alex Davies off Jordan Clark for 18 in the third over after the resumption, it was already becoming clear that Kent's batsmen had recovered their powers of resistance.
Only the red-rose zealots were disappointed by this. Kent is the county of Woolley and Hardinge, of Cowdrey and Luckhurst. It was not easy to watch them bat as they did on Monday.
Kent skipper Rob Key joined Denly and the pair put on 72 for the second wicket in over an hour's good cricket. Balls were played on their merits and the runs flowed. Lancashire used seven bowlers in the afternoon session at Old Trafford but none of them, not even the in-form Kyle Jarvis, could spark the sort of collapse we witnessed on Monday.
It took Peter Siddle's pace to make the next breakthrough and it came when Key, having made 34 in 77 minutes, rather played over the top of a full length delivery and lost his middle stump. That left Kent on 111 for 2 but Denly had by then reached his fifty off 96 balls with eight boundaries. At tea he was 60 not out and the total was 128 for 2.
The first ball of the evening's play was bowled by Kyle Jarvis and it was precisely the type of delivery you do not want to face when you are readjusting to a new session and waiting for your fondant fancies to go down. It came back sharply off the Old Trafford wicket and had Denly leg before. He had, at least, shown something of what he could do and even the younger players, such as Sam Billings, appreciated the fact.
"It's great having Joe back, he's another home-grown Kent player and a cracking bloke to have in the dressing room," said Billings "He's a top class player and there's no doubt he adds to our batting depth. If anyone watched him bat today, they could see how good a player he is."
However, there is still plenty of work for Kent's batsmen to do. Although rain trimmed 22 overs off the evening's cricket and although Sam Northeast and Brendan Nash then survived the trickiest of four-over session at the end of the day, Kent will need to bat very well if they are to avoid losing their second four-day game in a week.
Northeast, Nash and their colleagues cannot rely on the heavy showers that had the Old Trafford groundstaff struggling like Whitmanesque figures in the Mancunian gusts this morning. Instead they will have to draw on their own resources, just as Joe Denly did on this damp and sunlit Tuesday.