Kleinveldt leads way to dent Kent hopes

Northamptonshire 31 for 0 trail Kent 230 (Dickson 63, Coles 52, Gidman 51, Kleinveldt 3-70) by 199 runs

Northamptonshire are easily branded a team of white-ball specialists. Yet for all their excellence in the limited overs games - T20 champions twice in four seasons, and denied a Royal London Cup semi-final berth only by the majesty of Kumar Sangakkara - the club feel that they have not given the best of themselves in the County Championship.

Chances of a tilt at promotion went in the dying embers of spring, never mind the onset of autumn. But an evisceration of Glamorgan last week hinted at Northants' potential over four days, especially when the end of their white-ball season means that David Ripley does not have to preserve his side's vitality for limited-overs.

The return of the schools in September feels like no time for outground cricket. For Northants, this sepulchral day allowed their seamers to embrace the role of wreckers, intent on ending Kent's hopes of promotion back to Division One.

Jokes about Rory Kleinveldt's girth are trotted out often, yet Kent would have felt in no mood for them after his skilful swing with the second new ball prevented a score more substantial than 230. Ben Sanderson was relentlessly accurate, and Steven Crook in unyielding mood too.

Yet it was Azharullah who left the greatest mark on Kent. First, Sam Northeast, the totem of his side's batting all season, was induced to give an outside edge behind. Next ball, Darren Stevens' edge found Rob Keogh at third slip, a dismissal for which the batsman could not be considered culpable.

An odd feature of Beckenham is the Kent team analyst occupies the same tent as the media. As a result, batsmen often pop in to watch how they were dismissed. When he did so, Stevens could only rue his bad luck: the delivery had swung in, seamed away and squared him up, the sort of ball to render his outstanding form meaningless.

After the end Sean Dickson's austere 63, an innings in keeping with the sombre mood of the day, Kent slipped to 122 for 6, a position from which they feared not even gaining a single batting point. That they did so owed everything to a contrasting pair of half-centuries.

It is only two years since Will Gidman was one of the most sought-after county cricketers in the land. Yet he has spent much of the intervening period marooned in 2nd XI cricket, seemingly a man too good for Division Two but not good enough for Division One. Kent still reckoned that he could assist their attempt to return to Division One for the first since 2010, and in July enlisted him on loan from Nottinghamshire.

Gidman's reputation in Division Two was built on his parsimonious seam bowling, but it is as an unobtrusive middle-order batsman that he has been most valuable for Kent. He plays the ball late, prefers to hit along the ground, and is skilled in working the ball around adroitly - so much so that, when Gidman chipped Graeme White to midwicket for 51, where Kleinveldt took a neat catch, it was the first time that he had been dismissed for Kent in the County Championship. Four innings have brought four half-centuries, an average of 283 and enough, surely, for Kent to be keen to sign him permanently should Gidman be released from the final year of his contract at Trent Bridge.

Matt Coles, who could be considered the anti-Gidman, is not the sort to escape notice in anything he does. On this gloomy day, Coles briefly restored a little of the festival feeling that is supposed to be inherent to outgrounds with a sparkling 41-ball half century that was a distillation of Coles' power, bravado and considerable skill. All were in evidence in an astonishing reverse-sweep for six over midwicket off Rob Keogh's offspin, the sort of shot to startle any indulging in a late-afternoon nap.

Yet when Coles failed to take a wicket in his opening burst, memories of this bravado were overtaken by Kent's frustration with their opening-day batting. "Wish it was this easy when we batted," chuntered a Kent member as the evening session meandered to a conclusion with Kent's promotion ambitions cooling - at least for now.