Denly ton sets up Kent on Panesar's return
Kent 300 for 7 (Denly 126*) v Northamptonshire
Joe Denly made his first century of the season but four wickets after tea left the opening day between Northamptonshire and Kent quite even, with the visitors closing 300 for 7 after winning the toss. There were also two wickets for Monty Panesar - his first for Northamptonshire since 2009 - on his return to the county where he started his career.
Denly's only previous innings of note was a half-century against Glamorgan but here he looked assured, drove the ball smartly, and went through to three figures in 207 balls with 12 fours.
He might have departed for 26 had Panesar, on his comeback, claimed a sharp caught-and-bowled chance; one of three missed chances for the hosts in the morning session. But Denly took advantage and, having resumed 92 after tea, drove Panesar for four in the second over after the break and was soon celebrating a third Championship century back in Kent colours, having rejoined at the start of last season.
Panesar's return was for the most part less noteworthy, wheeling away for 31 overs on a docile wicket, but he did claim a second caught-and-bowled opportunity, this time offered from Sam Northeast on 49, that he took low down by his left boot, before having Calum Haggett caught behind four overs from the close. It was a fair return, seven years on from his last appearance for Northants.
"I've really enjoyed my first day back," Panesar said. "It was nice to get a good workload in. I was nervy first thing but I got some rhythm going. The first chance came at me harder than expected but the second chance was one of my best catches."
Northeast's wicket was the first of several tame dismissals that saw Kent fail to take full advantage of their strong position. At 202 for 2 they were in control of the day but after Northeast departed, no other partnership breached 30.
Sean Dickson tried to lift Rob Keogh - also making his first appearance of the season - down the ground, only for Alex Wakely to leap to his right from mid-off and claim a stunning one-handed catch. The celebration was surely learned from Shahid Afridi in his time at Wantage Road last season.
Darren Stevens fell in the first over of the second new ball, clipping Rory Kleinveldt straight to square leg. Adam Rouse fell in similar fashion looking to hit Kleinveldt through the leg side, only to get a looping leading edge to cover giving Wakely a much easier catch.
Northants should have been in a much better position earlier in the day, having broken Kent's opening stand in the fifth over, Wakely helping to run out Tom Latham.
Panesar's miss of Denly was the second of the three early chances to go down. Richard Levi twice spilled Daniel Bell-Drummond in the slips, first on 9 and then on 26. But Bell-Drummond couldn't take full advantage as Northants finally did hold a catch after lunch with Kleinveldt taking Bell-Drummond for 47 at first slip. By then he had helped Denly put on 85 for the second wicket as Kent made a solid start.