The day begins overcast with the prospect of cloud, a few showers but sun too so Essex carry on from overnight and add 10 runs for the last two wickets in half an hour or so, maiden after maiden. There was little to gain other than Kent winning the final bowling point. Sometimes the strategy is difficult to follow and this was one of those times…and we’d see it again later.
Kent proceed slowly so that overall after 90 mins total play only 35 runs had been scored at 2 per over. Not a spectacular to set the pulses racing a la One Day stuff but it was a day for the connoisseurs – the new ball needed to be seen off, batting is never going to be easy on this track, scoreboard pressure from the loss of early wickets, the general feeling that Kent could struggle in Division One; not a day or situation to encourage new watchers or the young to follow the game.
If today had been a youngsters first experience of first class cricket, then they could be lost forever. I suggest most readers will either have had their first exposure to cricket by family playing at local clubs, watching local games or, like me, via TV (and it was only terrestrial and black and white in my day!). So by 35 minutes after lunch, Kent reach 71/3 off 34 overs, high percentage of maidens (well over 35%), wickets all falling to catches, a strategy of alternating quicks at one end and Harmer spinning at the other. Some decisions seemed marginal only to those being dismissed but all looked fine from afar.
By tea time – taken on time, Kent reach 118/5 off 58 overs. Slow going but tense none the less. Both Robinson and Mulder on 13no. Will they save the follow on which looks far off?
After tea, things for Kent go from bad to worse as wickets fall with regularity and no one really getting settled. Did the overcast skies and the Essex pace attack take full advantage compared to the sunnier skies of the same time yesterday when Kent didn’t look as if they could buy a wicket? Well, who knows?
So at 137/9, the follow on looked far away and the question among the cognoscenti of Essex was would it be enforced? Are the bowlers tired? (They haven’t played for 10 days or so and spent most of yesterday watching Sir A batting…so they’re probably shattered after 15-20 overs today).
But the arrival of a brown wagtail on the outfield (had to check via internet as to the type…ornithology is not my forte) was a portent for the Kent tail of Milns and Qayyum to show what could be done. And didn’t they! They added 45 for the last wicket, the best partnership of the innings, showed grit, determination, application and patience which the batsmen failed to display. Admittedly the Essex strategy creaked at the seams; the new ball didn’t do the trick for once, the alternating quicks at one end, spin at the other had worked all day but couldn’t deliver the coup de grace…no plan B, no ‘do what they least expect’. But eventually just on the stroke of 5.55pm, they succumbed for 182 – a lead of 131 for Essex.
And…shock horror all 96 overs were bowled with 10 minutes to spare – would have been earlier if Pepper had not been hit and needed attention. It can be done!
A day for connoisseurs given the scoring rate, state of the game, etc. And interestingly on both days, the last hour has been the most interesting and intense!
A much smaller crowd – half of yesterday’s but it is a working day but where were the youngsters on half term? Only 20 or so I reckon today out of attendance close to 1000? We do need to attract the young to the game and perhaps they’ll come next season…and there were more opinions expressed among the spectators today than solutions to the current political scene but that’s for another time. Today was more prodding, groping but a wagging tail saved the day!