Kent and Sussex delicately poised at halfway point

Kent and Sussex exchanged blows in among the second-day showers in Canterbury, where the hosts reached 125 for four to secure an edge at the mid-point of this engaging Specsavers County Championship clash.

Michael Burgess / Picture PW Sporting Photography
Michael Burgess / Picture PW Sporting Photography

No quarter was asked or given between the second and third-placed sides in Division 2 as Kent battled away under floodlights to muster a 159-run lead on a pitch that continues to assist the seamer bowlers from both attacks.

When bad light stopped play soon at 5pm, Kent’s fifth-wicket partners Zak Crawley (23*) and Adam Rouse (10*) had contributed 31 to the cause in the face of a fiery, two for 26 bowling stint from Ishant Sharma.

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Batting for a second time soon after 2pm on the second day, Kent lost Daniel Bell-Drummond nine balls in when the out-of-sorts opener fenced at a lifting leg-cutter from Ishant, the India paceman, to be caught behind.

Sharma also accounted for Sean Dickson with another, near unplayable delivery, this time a shooting off-cutter that grubbed back into the right-hander and pegged back off stump as Dickson shouldered arms.

Kuhn and his acting captain Joe Denly added 55 either side of tea but their third-wicket stand was broken after 11.5 overs when Ollie Robinson rushed one through bat and pad to win an appeal for a catch at the wicket.

Three balls after taking a blow on the right hand from South African compatriot David Wiese, Kuhn, when just three runs short of his second 50 of the match, nicked Wiese’s away swinger to second slip.

Ollie Robinson, who bagged three for 51 in Kent’s first innings, believes the game is well poised. He said: “The overheads today have been more helpful for the bowlers with a bit of cloud around and the wicket has a bit of live grass in it, which always helps with a bit of nip.

“I feel both teams have bowled really well, but neither has batted particularly well. There’s a bit of rain forecast for Sunday morning so this could well end up being a bit of a shoot-out.

“If we can chase 220 to 250 it should be quite a good game. It’s not a terrible wicket, but it’s keeping you honest because it’s doing something every now and then. Anything under 250 we’ll fancy our chances, any more than that, then it’s possibly in Kent’s favour.”

Earlier, Kent had secured a potentially precious 34-run first-innings lead after dismissing Sussex for 181 inside 44 overs.

Kiwi paceman Matt Henry was again the pick of the home attack, claiming four for 69 overall, as the hosts claimed one wicket during a rain-ruined first session of 11.4 overs.

Henry had Luke Wright caught at second slip following a hesitant defensive prod 12 minutes into the second day, after which Kent returned following an early lunch to polish the job off – taking the last five Sussex wickets for 63 runs – despite losing seamer Grant Stewart from their attack with a recurrence of his hamstring injury.

Ben Brown and Michael Burgess eased the Sussex total into three figures in adding 40 for the sixth wicket but the partnership ended during a highly unusual double-wicket maiden soon after lunch.

Brown, on 30 and with his side still 97 in arrears, aimed to pull a good length delivery from Italian-born all-rounder Stewart, only to chop the ball onto his stumps. Stewart limped off three balls later with a hamstring niggle, leaving Ivan Thomas to bowl one delivery to complete the over. Robinson, the next man in, made a late decision to shoulder arms to a Thomas away swinger but succeeded in toe-ending a catch to keeper Adam Rouse.

The Sussex tail, led by Burgess and Wiese, continued to counter attack adding 40 in six overs. Henry gave way after bowling 10 overs either side of lunch and his replacement, Calum Haggett struck with his first delivery of the match having Wiese (28) caught in the gulley off a sliced drive.

Burgess posted only the second half-century of the match from 67 balls and with eight fours but lost Danny Briggs soon after when the right-hander steered another from Haggett straight to gulley.

Burgess, on 54, finally perished taking one risk too many. Smearing across the line against Podmore, he holed out to cow corner to gift Podmore a second scalp and Kent their modest lead. Henry, Kent’s leading light with the ball, said: “It’s feeling pretty good right now but we’ve got a big job ahead of us yet because we’ve got to put some more runs on the board.

“Hopefully we can come out all guns blazing and do something special in this match, be it tomorrow or the day after. Once you get past the new ball there are runs to be had, it’s just a case of getting yourself in.

“It’s great from my perspective to have had such a good start here for Kent, but it’s winning games that really matters. So we must focus on the work that lies ahead of us.”