Joe Denly prospers after first ball let-off but Derbyshire plug away

Joe Denly peppers the off side Getty Images

Kent 365 for 6 (Denly 106, Crawley 96, Kuhn 51) v Derbyshire

The stat of the day here explains quite a lot about why Kent entered the final third of the Championship season with the same win-loss-draw record as Warwickshire, the leaders, but with 15 fewer points in third place. The close-of-play score already represents their second highest first-innings total of the year, only the second to generate more than one batting bonus point. In making it, they raised their total batting points by two thirds, from six to 10.

Fortunately, they have the most potent attack in the country to cover any shortfall with the bat, bolstered here by the return of Matt Henry for his second stint of the Championship. The New Zealand pace bowler took 49 wickets in six matches in his first spell, with another 16 in the Royal London Cup for good measure.

Which is why, one assumes, Derbyshire have prepared a pitch the colour of bleached straw, hoping to blunt those weapons. Kent, naturally, chose to toss the coin and were not about to look a gift horse in the mouth when the call went their way and two batsmen in particular reaped the benefits, one of them capitalising on another gift.

Zak Crawley, opening the innings with Daniel Bell-Drummond dropping down the order after a run of poor form, was frustrated in the 90s for the second time this season with a maiden hundred in his sights, falling leg before to a full, straight ball from Tony Palladino.

The tall, right-hander, not yet 21, was palpably disappointed. He had played with a promising assuredness at times during his innings but having gone to 91 with a top-edge for six he began to look tentative. His time, though, will surely come.

Joe Denly, though, did complete his hundred, his third of the season in the Championship, having punished Derbyshire in the most severe way after being dropped first ball, edging to third slip where Matt Critchley spilled one at ankle height.

Had it stuck, Kent would have been 4 for 2 in the third over following Sean Dickson's dismissal, leg before to a ball from Hardus Viljoen that he tried to flick off his pads. No wonder Viljoen looked less than impressed. It was a day when such chances were always likely to be in short supply.

Viljoen did take his revenge, although not until five and a half hours later, by which time Denly had hit 12 boundaries in his 106 and Kent had moved on to 283.

The conditions prompted Derbyshire to include an extra spinner, bringing in the 17-year-old offspinner, Hamidullah Qadri and leaving out Ravi Rampaul, who suffered breathing difficulties in his last match but was declared fit to play. Kent included Adam Riley for only his third match of the season, in place of Darren Stevens.

Critchley bowled tidily without finding much turn; Qadri was punished heavily by Heino Kuhn in his first over and was only given a couple more but did beat the bat a couple of times and will hope for another chance.

To their credit, Derbyshire's bowlers can congratulate themselves on fighting back well in the final session, which yielded four wickets as Kent went from 273 for 2 to 331 for 6, at one stage. The pitch may be flat but there is not a lot of pace off the bat, so little in fact that Derbyshire were content to keep plugging away with the old ball long after the new one became available.

After Denly was bowled off an inside edge by Viljoen, Kuhn was leg before with an ugly shot across the line to Palladino, Sam Billings was hit in front trying to paddle Alex Hughes and Harry Podmore was beaten for pace by Lockie Ferguson.

The other change in the Derbyshire line-up saw Tom Lace in for Ben Slater, who has moved to Nottinghamshire. Lace has shown some promise playing for Middlesex 2nd XI yet is 20 years old and has no first-class experience. He arrives on loan with a strong recommendation from Angus Fraser, the Middlesex director of cricket, although one can imagine there might be a few young prospects in Derbyshire's 2nd XI who are feeling disappointed not to have been given a chance.

Kent 4th innings Partnerships

1st20Z CrawleySR Dickson
2nd57HG KuhnZ Crawley
3rd4JL DenlyHG Kuhn
4th6JL DenlyDJ Bell-Drummond
5th23SW BillingsDJ Bell-Drummond