Mark Pettini stands firm to keep Essex fighting
Essex 194 for 6 v Kent 420
Former Essex captain Mark Pettini revealed a more tenacious side to his game in a ding-dong battle at the St Lawrence ground where the visitors edged to within 77 of avoiding the follow-on against Kent.
Pettini, who abdicated the Essex captaincy in June with his county only three games in to their disappointing start to the Friends Provident t20 campaign, proved the star of Tuesday night's quarter final win over Lancashire with a swashbuckling 81 of 56 balls that took the Eagles through to finals day with five balls to spare.Barely 72 hours later and crease occupation was the order of the day for Pettini as he carried his bat through to stumps with an unbeaten 80 scored over four-and-a-half hours to thoroughly frustrate Kent's victory push.
Responding to Kent's workmanlike 420 all out, makeshift Essex opener Pettini lost first-wicket partner Jaik Mickleburgh in the 23rd over when the right-hander fenced at an Amjad Khan lifter and edged a throat- high chance to Darren Stevens at third slip. Three balls later, Tom Westley (0) followed a Simon Cook leg-cutter and edged low to slip where James Tredwell held a sharp chance that made it 50 for 2.
Former St Lawrence crowd favourite, the diminutive left-hander Matt Walker, reached only 10 - a little matter of 265 runs short of his ground record score by a Kent player - when he nicked a beauty from Azhar Mahmood that lifted and left to edge through to Geraint Jones.
Jones blotted his copybook by missing a stumping chance offered by Pettini with his score on 39 against Tredwell, allowing James Foster and Pettini to combine in a gritty fourth wicket stand worth 73 before Kent enjoyed their next success after tea.
With his score on 41 from 81 balls, Foster went back in defence to Azhar Mahmood who rushed one down the Nackington Road slope to peg back the right-hander's off stump.Wrist spinner Malinga Bandara claimed his first wicket of the game by having Tim Phillips (11) snaffled at short leg from a bat pad chance by Joe Denly, then Ravi Bopara's miserable game continued when he fell after only four balls.
Having missed all but six overs of the opening day with a back strain Bopara came in at No. 7 only to quickly become Amjad Khan's second victim of the day. Rushed into his defensive push from the crease, Bopara edged through to Jones and marched off with only two to his name leaving Pettini and David Masters to see the visitors through to stumps without further alarm.
At the start of day two Kent made heavy weather of reaching 400 for their fifth batting bonus point. Resuming on 360 for 6, they lost Tredwell (19) to a catch at the wicket and then night watchman Khan for only a single as he played across the line of a David Masters off-cutter.It was left to Bandara and Mahmood to ease Kent to maximum batting points with a ninth-wicket stand of 52 in 15.5 overs to which Mahmood contributed a stylish 28.
But once he sliced a drive to mid-off, so last man Simon Cook (8) soon followed. Mesmerised by the wrist spin of Bryce McGain, Cook edged to Foster to start the Essex response half-an-hour before lunch. McGain, on his Essex debut, finished with expensive figures of 5 for 151.
Mark Pennell is the managing director of freelance reporting and public relations agency Kent & Sussex Sport