Sussex v Kent, Specsavers Championship Div Two, Hove, 4th day April 17, 2017

Stevens' Benjamin Button act fast-forwards Kent to victory

Kent 304 (Dickson 68, Stevens 68, Parnell 51*, Archer 7-67) and 413 for 5 dec (Northeast 173*, Dickson 89, Stevens 71*) beat Sussex 291 (Brown 90, Archer 60, Claydon 4-87) and 200 (Brown 69, Stevens 5-51) by 226 runs

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On the eve of the 20th anniversary of Darren Stevens' first-class debut, the Kent allrounder put the finishing touches on a performance to confirm that age is just a number. With scores of 68 and 71 not out under his belt, he picked up his 14th five-wicket haul in first-class cricket to helped Kent to an emphatic 226-run win.

Sam Northeast, unable to fathom just how a 40-year-old, who had to battle to secure a new contract at the end of last season, could carry on this way likened him to Benjamin Button. And as long as Stevens is enjoying his cricket - how could he not after days like this? - he will continue to stick two fingers up at Father Time.

Northeast, who had a strong match himself with an unbeaten 173 and some sharp captaincy, left Hove on Sunday hoping for a bit of cloud in the morning. Someone upstairs was listening.

At 9am the skies were blue but, by the time the players had walked down the stairs from the dressing rooms to the middle, clouds had taken over. Then, moments after Ajmal Shahzad guided Wayne Parnell to Joe Denly at point for the final wicket, the sun returned to illuminate Kent's celebrations. Kent's second victory in as many matches saw the visitors move to second, a point behind Nottinghamshire in the early Division Two standings.

The damage was done by Stevens in the morning session, Sussex limping to lunch on 93 for 6. The hosts actually started pretty well in their pursuit of 427, following Kent's overnight declaration: Harry Finch and Chris Nash put on 59 between them, hitting boundaries at will. Nash, in particular, looked in good touch, putting Mitchell Claydon into the Pavilion at square leg for six. Then Stevens happened.

Replacing Matt Coles from the Sea End, Stevens, who turns 41 at the end of the month, took four wickets for seven runs in 25 balls to blow Sussex's top order to bits. Claydon then interrupted the procession before Delray Rawlins gave Stevens his fifth wicket, edging behind when trying to leave. Not for the first time, Ben Brown was the only Sussex batsman to emerge unscathed from a humbling defeat. He registered his second fifty of the match - from 51 balls - and finished undefeated on 69.

Kent got their tactics spot on. Northeast reckoned the pitch had only got better to bat on - a point he made after his unbeaten 173 - and knew he would have to box smart. It paid off.

With Sean Dickson unable to field with a shoulder and hamstring complaint, Adam Ball, an excellent close catcher, was pulled out of a 2nd XI match and stationed at first slip. While he dropped the first chance that came his way, diving to his left after an edge from Stiaan van Zyl, he made amends soon after to remove the same batsman for a four-ball duck. He then caught Jofra Archer to give Coles his second wicket of the innings.

Pressure was applied with close fielders: Will Gidman, often at third slip, donned a helmet so that he could step up a few paces into a position Joe Root has fielded in for England, termed "Suicide Gully". When David Wiese was playing his shots, Daniel Bell-Drummond was stationed out on the hook and, soon enough, took the first chance that came his way. Marginal gains contributing to a major win.

Northeast was bullish afterwards: "We're an ambitious group of players who want to be playing Division One cricket - there's absolutely no doubt about that. If we keep playing like this, we'll be very close."

Meanwhile, Sussex have confirmed they are "in the process of registering" Angus Robson. The batsman, who was released by Leicestershire earlier this season, could come into the first-team squad for Sussex's next match against Nottinghamshire, which starts on Friday. While there is no doubt Sussex possess game-changing batsmen, particularly in white-ball cricket, the introduction of a top-order player like Robson will add much-needed stability to their four-day line-up.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mpb.555149741 on April 20, 2017, 13:27 GMT

    I feel that the comments previously made are a tad ungracious towards a wonderful servant to the county who thoroughly deserves the plaudits received. Either the pitch favoured the bat, the ball, both or neither but in any case Stevens' earned the favourable comments, age notwithstanding - the man is selected on merit and long may it be so.

  • Colin on April 18, 2017, 18:26 GMT

    If the young hungry players were good enough to reach international standard they'd be able to out bat and out bowl Stevens. Until they can he deserves his place in the side.

  • Richard on April 17, 2017, 18:14 GMT

    19BEN81 I'd suggest it highlights the fragility of Sussex's batting more than anything. Northeast had smashed an unbeaten 170odd the previous day and plenty of other batsmen, including Dickson, Stevens and Ben Brown had scored 50s in both innings proving the pitch was fine.

  • Ben on April 17, 2017, 17:05 GMT

    Its great for Stevens that he is still performing at 40. However, it highlights all thats wrong with the English system that people bring up. Someone never close to internatiinal standard, bowling medium pace on helpful wickets, keeping hungry young English lads out of the side. On the other hand who wouldn't rather see Stevens carry on doing what he is doing for another decade than see his spot taken by a Kolpak player.

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