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Canterbury, April 21 - 24, 2022, County Championship Division One
305 & 296

Hampshire won by an innings and 51 runs


Daniel Bell-Drummond hints at red-ball revival to dominate day for Kent

Keith Barker hits back with four wickets as Hampshire find late new-ball breakthroughs

Cameron Ponsonby
Daniel Bell-Drummond stretches out to drive, Kent v Sussex, Bob Willis Trophy, Canterbury, 2nd day, August 9, 2020

Daniel Bell-Drummond stretches out to drive  •  Getty Images

Kent 271 for 7 (Bell-Drummond 149, Cox 51, Barker 4-36) vs Hampshire
Daniel Bell-Drummond's 12th first-class century dominated day one, but a late collapse and a four-wicket haul from Keith Barker would see Hampshire finish the day slightly on top with the score at 271 for 7.
It is easy to forget that Bell-Drummond is still only 28. His professional debut in cricket came over a decade ago and he was just a teenager when England's new managing director Rob Key dubbed him as a player with the potential to play 100 Tests. And even ten years on, he is still England U19's all-time leading run-scorer.
Key's prediction seemed particularly astute when Bell-Drummond, aged 21, scored a 92-ball century against Australia in 2015 and followed it up in 2016 with a first-class season where he averaged 68.07. Glory awaited.
But then the runs dried up. Whereas he scored nine first-class centuries in the first five years of his career, the following six would add just three more (including today), as his red-ball runs were replaced with white. His form with the bat mirrored the wider pattern of the domestic game, where England's short-format batting stocks are growing deeper than ever, while anyone with a pulse and Ed Smith's phone number got a go at the Test team's batting order. It is a recognition of Bell-Drummond's lack of form in 2017 (avg 24.39) and 2018 (19.00) that even from the highs of the previous years the call never came.
Nevertheless, given the clear potential Bell-Drummond had shown in the first half of his career, and the subsequent England selection policy of backing the potential of youth, you could be excused for wondering whether Bell-Drummond ever felt hard done by that the punt on potential that others have since received was never an opportunity afforded to him a few years earlier.
"No, not at all", Bell-Drummond said at the close of play. "I think if I was good enough then, I should be good enough now. I probably haven't been as consistent as I'd have liked since 2016, so not at all. If anything, I see it as the opposite. Obviously, everyone loves a cap but I want to make sure I'm good enough if I get to that level. I think times are changing as well, Alastair Cook was playing then and a few runs were being scored. It's been in the media about the wickets - obviously, we've had some really good ones here this year, but I think it's a really different time. I don't have any regrets."
It would be too much to describe this innings as a redemption for Bell-Drummond but it will hopefully be a new beginning for a player who only last year had found himself out of the Kent side. And lessons too can be taken from the success of Bell-Drummond's team-mate Ben Compton, who today scored 27 in his first innings in a Kent shirt that hasn't finished with him reaching three figures.
Compton, a late entrant to the first-class game, has been celebrated as an example of where determination and commitment to a goal can take you. His reward would appear to be the potential of a long professional career now ahead of him. And yet the newbie Compton and the veteran Bell-Drummond are, of course, the same age.
"I definitely do take admiration from Compton and how he's started," Bell-Drummond said. "It's been unbelievable, to be honest. Maybe he expected it, but I don't think we thought we'd signed this calibre of player. But he's an awesome player and he'll go from strength to strength.
"But it just shows his ambitions and how strong he is mentally. I take a lot from that. That's the main thing I've learnt. In terms of my career, I just try to take each day as it comes. I know how good I can be, but I just really want to be more consistent. I've done really well in white-ball cricket, so now it's just about adding the red-ball side to it."
Both sets of skills were on show today as Bell-Drummond played the seam of Kyle Abbott, Mohammad Abbas and Keith Barker with patience while targeting the short leg-side boundary when facing the leg spin of Mason Crane.
And for as long as Bell-Drummond was at the crease, the day looked set to be a dominant occasion for Kent, whose only brief wobbles with the bat were right at the start of the day when Zak Crawley edged behind off the bowling of Abbas and then, 100 runs later, when Compton and Tawanda Muyeye fell in quick succession.
The double breakthrough had sparked some life into Hampshire, with captain James Vince bellowing "150 for 5!" across the ground in both hope and expectation as the hosts stood at 113 for 3.
But Bell-Drummond and Jordan Cox, who made 51, would take Kent past 200 and beyond, and it was only in the last hour of the day that Hampshire looked like taking any sheen off their efforts, with Kent sitting pretty at that stage on 239 for 3.
But when Bell-Drummond was given lbw off the bowling of Abbott for 149, Kent proceeded to collapse. It is the nature of the four-day game that while good things take a long time to arrive with the bat, bad things can happen very quickly. And in the final hour Kent would lose four wickets for just 26 runs as Barker struck twice with the second new ball to add to his earlier wickets of Muyeye and Compton.
"They bowled well with the second new ball so the game's still in the balance," Bell-Drummond said. "Obviously we'd have liked to have gone in three-, four- or five-down at the end of the day but we're still pretty content and for the most part it was a good day."

Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby

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