Kent v Leicestershire, Canterbury, 4thday September 18, 2009

Key praises Tredwell's role in Division Two victory

Mark Pennell at Canterbury

Leicestershire 148 (Dippenaar 54, Cook 5-44, Khan 4-46) and 350 for 2 dec (Nixon 173*, Boyce 98) drew with Kent 453 (van Jaarsveld 146, Jones 89, Harris 4-84)

Kent captain Rob Key said that the really "hard work starts now" after his side drew with Leicestershire and collected the LV County Championship division two trophy. In intimating that Kent will need to strengthen their squad during the close season if they are to survive in the top flight, Key heaped praise on his injury-hit side and leading wicket-taker James Tredwell in particular.

Yet if Key had written a script for winning the title on this the last day of championship cricket at St Lawrence for the summer, then his former team-mate Paul Nixon clearly hadn't read it as he batted all day to deny Kent a ninth win of the campaign.

Nixon, who played three seasons at Canterbury between 2000 and 2002, occupied the crease for a shade over seven hours in all to reach a career-best 173 not out and help wipe out Kent's first-innings lead of 305.

By the time the sides shook hands on a draw, Leicestershire had reached 350 for 2 for a modest advantage of 45-runs and Kent had toiled all day for only two wickets. Nixon featured in a record first-wicket stand against Kent worth 205 with Matt Boyce (98) that beat the previous record set by Maurice Hallam and Gerry Lester in 1956 by two runs.

Boyce went soon after lunch when edging to slip against offspinner Martin van Jaarsveld then Tredwell held a return catch soon after to take his season's tally to 65 wickets and send Josh Cobb packing for 28. It was to prove Kent's last success of the day, if not their final celebration.

The champagne corks popped soon after 4.30pm when the ECB's managing director of England cricket presented home captain Rob Key with the trophy and winner's cheque for £115,000.

Afterwards, a phlegmatic Key said: "We got wins just when we needed them, but your life as a skipper is so much easier when you've got a spinner like James Tredwell in your side who can bowl you 30-plus overs in the first innings and get you wickets and that's been a key to our success.

"I'm muted in my celebration because I look at that banner and see Division two winners. I'm not taking away anything from the achievement because it's not been easy this year, but it won't go down in my career as one of the great moments.

"It's just part of the way forward, something we had to do to get back in the top flight. I still want to win the championship outright here, and winning the championship means the first division so the hard work starts now.

"There is a difference in the standard and I'm pleased we're going back to pitting ourselves against the best players in the county. It would be a big regret at the end of my career if we didn't win the championship."

Key also heaped praise on Kent's director of cricket Graham Ford, who returns to South Africa at the end of the month to be replaced by Paul Farbrace. Key added: "Graham has been fantastic. You never hear 'Fordie' giving himself any credit so it's best that it comes from me.

"His record speaks for itself. When he arrived we were one of the worst Twenty20 sides in the country, we're now one of the best in one-day cricket in general. It was a real shame we got relegated in the championship last year because things could have been so different, but we've come straight back up and much credit goes to 'Fordie' and Simon Willis."