By Connor Steel
KENT CRICKET ended Hampshire’s hopes of winning a 3rd County Championship title on Thursday as they were victorious in the penultimate match of the 2022 summer campaign, beating James Vince’s outfit by 77 runs on day three at the Ageas Bowl. And in truth it was an awful display from the hosts as they collapsed in the 1st innings on day one with twenty-three wickets falling alone; the in-form visitors putting themselves in a wonderful position and never really looking back despite a much improved 2nd innings on a flattening pitch.
Having won the Royal London One-Day Cup on Saturday the visitors made a terribly shaky start to the game as they were reduced to 1-2, Keith Barker trapping Tawanda Muyeye LBW for a 5-ball duck and Mohammed Abbas seeing Daniel Bell-Drummond caught within 2 overs. Captain Jack Leaning and Ben Compton scored a turgid twenty-seven runs off 17 overs before the former was dismissed for 8 by Kyle Abbott, who also took the wickets of Ollie Robinson (4) and Adam Finch (0) to leave the batters stuck on 35-5 at the lunch interval.
The afternoon session started Compton and Joey Evison at the crease, adding 68 in runs during a frustrating twenty over partnership to bring up the hundred runs; the latter being caught at midwicket shortly afterwards for 34 runs to leave Kent on 100-6. Another stand including multiple boundaries with Harry Podmore allowed Compton to pass his latest half century as forty five runs were added in just under 9 overs; the former seeing his stumps smashed by Barker’s in-swinging delivery as the seventh wicket fell with the batting score 145-7.
Adding one further run across two overs Compton’s four hour stand at the crease for sixty three off 161 balls was ended as he was trapped LBW by Barker, who gained his third and final wicket from his eighteen quick-paced overs. Abbas did the rest as he trapped Conor McKerr for a single and then finished the away innings for 169 all out as he removed Nathan Gilchrist for 12 runs; sealing the maximum three bowling points within sixty-six overs of bowling on a hard green surface that offered greater than normal, but not excessive, swing.
Not that Hampshire started well in response of an under-par away score as they were left struggling on 13-2 within six overs; Felix Organ (10) hitting a boundary before he was caught off Podmore and Joe Weatherley being bowled the following over from Matthew Quinn with the new ball. This soon became 28-3 after some quick running between the stumps as Nick Gubbins (8) edged behind an angling delivery into the gloves of Robison, who held on superbly as Kent secured their own bowling bonus point within just the eleventh over.
And it soon worsened for the home side as Quinn took two quickfire wickets after Ian Holland had found the boundary twice; first removing captain Vince for a three-ball duck before having the latter caught at second slip for a high score of nineteen runs. Ben Brown quickly followed for a single as Gilchrist bowled him with a yorker to seal a second bowling point, whilst the new batsman Barker (13) hit three outstanding boundaries including a lift over the fielders to push Hampshire past fifty runs in the 14th over for the loss of six wickets.
But the all-rounder’s counter attack only lasted ten balls as Quinn claimed his 4th victim as he drew a loose shot that was caught at point, leaving Hampshire on 54-7. The eighth wicket came just a single ball later as Aneurin Donald fell to Gilchrist playing a loose drive that smashed his own stumps, whilst Quinn took the 9th dismissal as Abbott was caught edging behind third man. The innings was completely wrapped up after 87 minutes and 16.5 overs just moments later as Abbas became Quinn’s last wicket with Hampshire 57 all out.
Despite the carnage there was still three more wickets to come in the final 45 minutes of day one; Compton being dismissed for a second time as he was caught off the bowling of Abbas. Two balls later the Pakistani seamer removed the night-watchman McKeer for a duck, his strike partner Holland bowling Podmore for the same fate just five balls later for 20-3. And this was how it stayed as the umpires signalled stumps after this simply breathless day, with Kent in the brilliant position of leading by 128 runs with seven wickets left to fall.
Day two may have started under overcast skies on Wednesday but the surface seemed easier to bat upon, Muyeye and Bell-Drummond coming out with a game plan of driven shots that allowed the pair to add thirty-five runs in 7 overs. The fourth wicket soon followed as Muyeye (39) was trapped LBW after hitting several boundaries with the batsman escaping a dropped catch just moments before; Bell-Drummond and Leaning adding fifty runs in a ten over spell before the former was dismissed by James Fuller to leave Kent on 106-5.
This was 135-6 at lunch as Abbas dismissed Robinson (19) with Leaning taking over the mantle, attacking all deliveries with a new tactic of coming across the ball. This allowed him to reach his half-century from 89 balls and proceeded towards his ton off 151 deliveries as he made 112 overall including one big six; Fuller ending the batter’s three hours at the crease for 213-6. Holland then got his second as he trapped Finch (24) as the lower tail fell cheaply; Fuller claiming Evison (1) and Abbas removing Gilchrist (11) to leave Kent 269 all out.
Needing 378 to keep their title dreams alive with Surrey in charge elsewhere, Hampshire started badly in this chase as they lost Holland for three in the fourth over; the batsman trapped LBW off Quinn. But there was to be no repeat of their first innings as Organ joined together with Weatherley with their team in big trouble; the pair adding sixty-eight off 25 overs mixing running between the wickets alongside risk-free boundary hitting against the new ball despite both needing treatment after minor knocks to the hand area from short bowling.
Hampshire reached 76-1 before Organ was the next wicket to fall as he edged Podmore behind for 37 runs, hitting his bat against his helmet in frustration. Night-watchman Barker (5) survived seventeen balls before looping a bouncer to midwicket and Kent were jubilant when Quinn bowled Gubbins with a delivery into his off stump; this 4th wicket proving to be the last before stumps as Weatherley shyly marked his half-ton from ninety-four to help the hosts finish on 105-4 after another disappointing day for their Championship dreams.
Weatherley was only able to add two further runs in six overs on the third morning before being dismissed by Gilchrist trapped leg-before for fifty-six. In his next over the bowler also removed Brown who was caught at square leg for a seven ball duck as he took his third dismissal to leave Hampshire on 119-6 in the 41st over. But although Donald soon fell to McKerr trapped LBW for 19 with the score now left at 146-7, Kent were not allowed to simply cruise to a huge victory in their relegation battle thanks to the determined efforts of Vince.
The captain demonstrated his trademark placement as he scored three boundaries in quick succession that were all variations of cover drives, reaching his fifty off eighty-one balls as the target was reduced to 169 at lunch as the score passed two hundred. But only 27 more runs were added after the break before Vince tried to loft Leaning for a six, his effort dipping into the hands of the fielder on the boundary who grabbed the ball with relative ease. This eighth wicket ended a huge ninety-run partnership alongside Fuller to make it 236-8.
Abbott scored fourteen runs in a short stand with Fuller before he was caught to become Leaning’s second wicket of the afternoon, leaving Kent with just one dismissal standing for victory. They were made to wait as Fuller accelerated against the new ball as he passed fifty in just 74 balls and continued to score further late runs including his thirteen boundaries to reach 78 not out; Abbas becoming the final wicket to fall as he had his off stump flattened by Gilchrist’s new ball swing with Hampshire all out for 300 to seal the vital away win.
This was Hampshire’s first defeat at the Ageas Bowl in first class cricket since losing to Somerset in May last year and just their second since the start of the 2019 season; which was worsened by the result that Surrey won their match at home to Yorkshire by ten wickets that same afternoon. It means that the leaders have an uncatchable lead of 27 points going into the final week of summer action with Hampshire set for a trip to visit Warwickshire; a match which is sadly a dead rubber at Edgbaston as Kent became the party poopers again.
PICTURED BY HAMPSHIRE CRICKET (GETTY IMAGES): Home fielders celebrate a big wicket but were unable to match this success with the bat as their title dreams fell apart in their penultimate red class game.