Cricket: Essex bowlers keep Kent in check
PUBLISHED: 18:18 28 May 2019 | UPDATED: 18:18 28 May 2019
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Simon Harmer bowled almost unchanged from noon to dusk while taking 3-72 from 35 overs as Essex claimed a considerable first-innings lead at Chelmsford.
Kent crept along to 182 all out from 89 overs at the close on day two of the Specsavers County Championship match, still 131 runs behind Essex's 313 all out.
The visitors had found scoring difficult all day and their run-rate hovered around the two-an-over mark for much of the innings. It took 50 overs to reach three figures, while the fifth-wicket partnership between Daniel Bell-Drummond and Ollie Robinson added just 19 in 12 overs.
By way of contrast, Essex had rattled along at the comparatively express rate of three an over in posting 313 in their first innings.
Essex's four-man attack nagged away from the start, threatening with nearly every ball. Jamie Porter and Sam Cook set the tone from the start, nipping the ball around, while Peter Siddle (3-29) and Harmer found bounce and lift at their different speeds and took three wickets each.
All four bowlers were indebted to the safe hands of 20-year-old Michael Pepper, playing for the first time this season after an appendix operation, as he took five catches behind the stumps, though he did require treatment just before the close after a ball from Porter slipped through his gloves and into his face.
It was not until the first ball of the fifth over that Kent put runs on the board, with Joe Denly turning Porter through the offside for four.
The second scoring stroke, a cover-drive from Denly, came off the 53rd ball of the innings. Zak Crawley, meanwhile, finally got off the mark from the 28th ball he faced.
In between, Sean Dickson, who scored a century and ninety against Surrey last week, faced just six dots balls before he edged Porter to Harmer at second slip.
Cook finished with 2-28 from 16.2 overs, but deserved better for his efforts as he had 6-5-4-0 from his opening spell before Harmer replaced him and promptly took two wickets.
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Denly looked to drive and nicked behind for 20 from 49 balls, and Crawley's 67-ball stay for 15 ended when he popped a ball round the corner to Ravi Bopara at leg slip.
Siddle found plenty of life in the pitch after lunch, beating the bat at various heights but continually failing to find the edge.
However, Heino Kuhn was almost cut in half by one that came back on him and did catch the outside of his bat. The South African stood his ground as the ball nestled in Pepper's gloves until the umpire's finger confirmed his departure.
Cook came back during the afternoon and had Bell-Drummond repeatedly playing and missing - just as he had Crawley at the start. He finally gained his reward with a ball that jumped up on Bell-Drummond and was caught behind. The Kent number four had faced 82 balls for his 28.
Robinson came out after tea and promptly launched Harmer over long-on for a six that was totally out of context with what had gone before. But he didn't last much longer, trapped on his crease swatting at a short ball from Porter that gave Pepper another catch. Robinson's 22 had taken 85 balls, and Kent were 127-6 from 63 overs.
Siddle replaced Porter immediately and with the second ball of his new spell had Darren Stevens cutting airily outside off-stump and arrowing the ball straight into Bopara's hands at backward point.
Bopara was back at leg slip one over later to snaffle Wiaan Mulder and give Harmer his third wicket. Harry Podmore followed an inswinger from Siddle to guide the ball through to Pepper for catch No5.
But the last-wicket pair of Matt Milnes and Imran Qayyum hung around for more than an hour in compiling the highest stand of the innings (45) in taking Kent past the follow-on target. Milnes was the last man to go, bowled by Cook to the last ball of the day.
It hadn't been any easier at the start of the day. Essex's collapse against the new-ball, initiated the evening before, continued with Kent requiring just 32 balls to take the two remaining wickets.
Porter did not survive Podmore's first over: the first ball was edged just short of first slip and the fourth trapped him lbw for Podmore's 100th first-class career wicket.
Harmer thick-edged Milnes for his second boundary of the day before departing next ball, also leg before. Milnes finished with 4-61.
Once Sir Alastair Cook had gone for 125 during the evening session on the first day, Essex lost seven wickets for 38 runs from 110 balls.