Lancashire v Kent, Liverpool, 1st day September 17, 2008

Jones fires after Lancashire slump

Kent 147 for 5 (Jones 91) lead Lancashire 107 (Khan 3-10, Joseph 3-37) by 40 runs
Scorecard


Faf du Plessis is cleaned up by Amjad Khan as Lancashire fold on the opening day © Getty Images
 
Kent have been this season's bridesmaids; runners-up in Twenty20, runners-up in the Friends Provident Trophy and beaten in the deciding second division Pro40 match. They clearly find the final hurdle a leap too far, and yet with two wins they could still claim the Championship for the first time since 1978. After taking advantage of a damp pitch at Aigburth they are already ahead in this match after dispatching Lancashire for 107, before Geraint Jones almost matched that total on his own.

It was Lancashire's lowest total since 2005, which came in Division Two, and that's where they will be heading back to unless there is a swift change to the course of this match. They have the smallest haul of batting bonus points in Division One and never looked like adding any here. The best innings of the day was from Kent's wicketkeeper, Jones, who was promoted up to No. 3 and struck 91 off 88 balls to put Kent 40 ahead by the close. He deserved a century, but fell lbw to Oliver Newby three overs before the close. Nevertheless he has already put Kent in the driving seat.

Kent have a strong hand of seam and swing bowlers so the absence of Azhar Mahmood, due to knee problems, was barely noticed as Yasir Arafat, Robbie Joseph, Amjad Khan and Ryan McLaren all proved tricky. Heavy overnight rain meant no play before lunch and juiced up conditions making Robert Key's decision to bowl was one of his easier calls of the summer.

The match has probably started a day early for the state of the pitch - and Chris Broad, the pitch liaison officer, will be back on the second day - but given the recent weather Lancashire should be safe of any recriminations. It is a minor consolation.

Well though Kent's main quartet bowled, some of Lancashire's batting failed to adapt to conditions. Paul Horton, who plays his club cricket in the local area, set a loose trend when he wafted outside off stump against Joseph and the middle order failed to respect the moving ball. Lancashire's batting has been poor for most of the season, summed up by their tally of six Championship centuries by five players - one of whom, Mohammad Yousuf, was only a brief replacement. It was a day where the Kent bowlers just had to allow the conditions, and the batsmen, to do the hard work.

Karl Brown, playing his third Championship match, finally made it to the crease after not picking up a bat in the previous two games but lasted just five balls before edging a good outswinger low to first slip. Mark Chilton's lbw decision looked a little high, then the middle order succumbed as Khan pitched the ball up and found late swing to end with his best figures for two years.

Khan has only played in the latter part of the season after finally recovering from knee reconstruction, but retains the pace and movement that gained England interest. At times he struggled to control his line, spraying the ball down the leg side and often out of Jones' reach, but when it was straight it was dangerous. However, Faf du Plessis and Glen Chapple were certainly guilty of driving without due care and attention.

In between whiles, Khan hit the stumps three times while Luke Sutton played all round a delivery from McLaren, as Lancashire's line-up continued to show their complete lack of confidence. And, at this time of the season, it's hard to arrest a slide. At 67 for 8, the lowest Championship total of 78 this summer jointly held by Kent and Essex was in danger, but some defiance from Steven Croft at least nudged the total over 100.

Joe Denly had been absent throughout with a migraine so James Tredwell opened and although Lancashire took early wickets, Kent had had time to assess the conditions. They realised they were better off playing some shots and shifted Jones up to No. 3 with the license to have a dart. His counter-punching style was ideal and despite his fair share of luck he also played the best strokes of the day with a 42-ball half-century.

He was dropped twice, firstly a very low chance to Stuart Law at second slip on 17 then by Horton at first on 67, but his cutting and driving was crisp. Darren Stevens helped him add 78 for the fourth wicket to carry Kent into a lead, however he couldn't survive to the end, becoming the latest batsman to pay the price for a loose drive. Jones was set for a century until Newby changed ends and gave Lancashire some hope of a second-day fightback. For that, though, they can't afford another dismal batting performance.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo