Kent complete Lord's pick-me-up as Podmore hounds former county

Kent 241 (Fuller 4-86) and 281 (Stewart 103, Kuhn 57) beat Middlesex 56 (Stewart 6-22) and 124 (Podmore 6-36) by 342 runs

Middlesex slumped to a record first-class defeat against Kent, as Harry Podmore took a maiden five-wicket haul against his former employers. For Kent, the 342-run win secured a spot in the top two of the second division, and meant a winning start as Championship captain for Sam Billings ahead of Saturday's Royal London Cup final.

Not for the first time this season, Kent's batsmen underwhelmed, only for the spirit of their inexperienced attack to bail them out of trouble. They sit at top of the Championship tonight - although will slip to second if Warwickshire win at Chester-le-Street - and on this showing, there is every reason to think they can seal promotion in the second half of the season.

With an eye to the future, perhaps a Division One future, they have also confirmed that they have put a 28-day approach in for the Nottinghamshire seamer Matt Milnes.

Chasing an improbable 467 to win with eight wickets in hand, Middlesex went into the day with a clear task: bat, and bat long. But the game was over as a contest within the first hour. Sam Robson, Dawid Malan, and Hilton Cartwright - each a Test batsman - looked all at sea against the swinging ball, as Podmore and Grant Stewart ran riot.

Steaming in from the Nackington Road end, Podmore bowled with pace and purpose to a packed slip cordon, and celebrated each wicket with a roar more guttural than the last. When Malan nicked off, he wheeled away in celebration, arms outstretched, before punching the air.

The seamer never held down a place in the first team at Middlesex, and his release at the start of April was not mourned by their fans. But here, he looked every inch a Division One fast bowler, moving the ball into the right-hander and beating the bat time and again.

Stewart, whose maiden century last night took the game away from Middlesex's attack, struck first, removing the hapless Robson flashing at a wide one, before Podmore got Malan.

The wickets began to tumble: nightwatchman Ravi Patel was caught at fourth slip off Stewart, before Podmore took his fifth and sixth of the innings, all before an hour had been played.

Only Tim Murtagh's bludgeoning 40 off 21 balls spared the visitors from their heaviest-ever first-class defeat in terms of runs, but that will be scant consolation. Middlesex sit fifth in Division Two, 36 points off second-placed Warwickshire; and that margin could increase depending on proceedings at Chester-le-Street.

Middlesex have spoken out about the perceived injustices they have faced countless times over the past two seasons. Their relegation from Division One was blamed on the Taunton groundsman and a rogue archer outside the Oval; their struggles at home the fault of the Lord's groundstaff, rather than their attack's impotence.

They had their excuses here, too: no doubt, they had the worse of the conditions, and they were missing as many as nine of the first-team squad due to international call-ups, injuries, or breakdowns in relationships.

But the time for excuses must be over. For all their complaints about the pink Dukes ball, which swung around corners late on the first evening, and their absent stars, Middlesex were outplayed in every department by a fired-up Kent side. Today's pathetic showing was the nadir: with no blame cast on the floodlights or the mischievous pink ball, they collapsed in spectacular fashion against a Kent attack missing its two spearheads.

After an early exit in the Royal London Cup, and with a poor recent record in the T20 Blast, Middlesex's season rests on the final seven games of the Championship season. With Nick Gubbins, Tom Helm, Paul Stirling, Eoin Morgan, and Steven Finn all in contention for those games, there is at least some reason for optimism, but the manner of the defeat here hints at a club in turmoil.

Few could have foreseen the club's current position after their dramatic, final-day title win in 2016, but their slump has come about on merit. The members will be demanding answers: why have talented young players like Podmore and Gloucestershire's Ryan Higgins left the county? Why are two stars of the Championship-winning season now either surplus to requirements (Nick Compton) or on loan at a club in the division above (Ollie Rayner)?

Middlesex 4th innings Partnerships

1st0SD RobsonMDE Holden
2nd17SD RobsonSS Eskinazi
3rd10SD RobsonRH Patel
4th9DJ MalanRH Patel
5th4RH PatelHWR Cartwright
6th8GFB ScottHWR Cartwright
7th20JA SimpsonGFB Scott
8th3JAR HarrisGFB Scott
9th9JAR HarrisJK Fuller
10th44TJ MurtaghJAR Harris