Ford's relief as Kent secure title
Leicestershire 148 and 97 for 0 (Boyce 53*, Nixon 37*) trail Kent 453 (van Jaarsveld 146, Jones 89, Harris 4-84) by 208 runs
A nurdled single off the pads through mid-wicket is a bread-and-butter shot to Kent's Martin van Jaarsveld, but it was precisely the stroke that secured his side's second batting bonus point against Leicestershire and with it the County Championship Division Two title.
As is the way at sleepy St Lawrence the celebrations at 11.20am remained low key. The Kent players on the balcony hardly broke into a smile, while only a handful of supporters stood up to applaud the single that heralded Kent's immediate return to the top flight at the first time of asking. Most believed perhaps that Kent should never have been relegated in the first place.
No doubt the weary and ailing Kent squad will unwind when Hugh Morris, the ECB's managing director, awards the trophy and the £90,000 winner's cheque to Rob Key when the game finishes on Friday, but the only emotion van Jaarsveld and his sixth-wicket partner Justin Kemp betrayed yesterday was a mere touch of gloves at a job well done.
The single took van Jaarsveld on to 89, but true to form for the division's leading run-scorer, he converted that into his seventh century of the season, this latest hundred coming from 122 balls and with 16 fours and a brace of sixes. He lost Kemp (8) leg-before to a Wayne White shooter but forged ahead to add 81 in tandem with Alex Blake. van Jaarsveld took his own score on to 146 before chasing a wide one from James Benning just before lunch to edge to keeper Tom New stood up to the stumps.
Kent's tail wagged in the middle session with cameo contributions from Ryan McLaren (44), James Tredwell (29) and Simon Cook (23 not out) that extended their total to 453 and an overall first-innings lead of 305 before Andrew Harris polished off the innings with four for 84.
Kent's out-going director of cricket Graham Ford, who hands over the reins to Paul Farbrace at the end of the month, said: "I'm just really chuffed the boys have got their reward for their work because it really has been a hard slog. It's something they set their minds on doing right from the first moment we were relegated last season.
"Fortunately we have a group of guys here who are prepared to look in the mirror and do a lot of self assessment and they've put a lot of things right. But it's been a massively long haul and everyone's delighted that that promotion and the title have been achieved."
Questioned as to whether the overriding feeling was of relief rather than elation, he added: "There's a bit of both, it's something you become more and more desperate to achieve. You see yourself in the race, feel it can be done, that you're almost there, but no matter how strong you're feeling, you then have one of those little nightmares about how things might possibly go wrong.
"We've not finished well in the past couple of seasons so everyone was a little bit cautious about wrapping this up. Now there is a sense of relief, but also a real feeling of satisfaction at having done a job pretty well.
"With eight wins so far our success has been pretty emphatic and I hope those supporters who have been around the ground here quite often will have appreciated our very positive style of play.
"The guys can be really proud of the fact that they've achieved this with a small squad and with only minimal contribution from an overseas pro. The injuries to Robbie Joseph and Ryan McLaren were setbacks, but the lads have shown great character, put their hands up and worked even harder."
There was a real sense of anticlimax for the rest of the day as Leicestershire's openers Paul Nixon (37*) and Matt Boyce, with an unbeaten 53 from 131 balls, compiled 97 without loss in the 38 remaining overs.