By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE CRICKET returned to winning ways in County Championship Division One and recovered from last week’s heavy defeat away in Surrey, beating Kent Cricket Club by an innings and 51 runs in Canterbury under sunny but blustery conditions across four days of action at the St. Laurence. It was an encounter that was arguably dominated by batsmen with four centuries scored across the three innings, with fine displays from away bowlers Keith Barker and then Kyle Abbott the only main difference between the two sides.
Winning the toss and choosing to bat first Kent made a slow start, losing their first wicket after seven overs when Zak Crawley was caught behind off Mohammed Abbas’ straight delivery for 13-1. But the very early dismissal didn’t set an immediate bad tone as Daniel Bell-Drummond came to the crease alongside Ben Compton; the former reaching his half century just before lunch as he cut leg-spinner Mason Crane to the deep-backward point boundary before adding two more fours to leave the hosts on 97-1 at the lunch interval.
The pair continued after lunch but Compton, who had brilliantly supported his partner, was bowled by Barker for 27 as the ball smashed his off-stump; ending a stand of 98 runs. The third wicket soon fell for Kent as Barker removed Tawanda Muyeye for one, strangling the batsman down the leg side to be caught by away wicketkeeper Ben Brown to leave the score on 113-3. However any ambition to break into the middle order was resisted by Bell-Drummond and Jordan Cox, who made very slow but steady progress as the former completed a brilliant century with two boundaries of Crane to make the scores 177-3 at the tea interval.
Bell-Drummond, full of confidence, ramped up the run rate and dominated the batting with some boundaries upon the restart, including a hooked effort for six off Felix Organ’s bowling and consecutive fours off Abbott. But after a partnership of 126 for the fourth wicket off forty-five overs Bell-Drummond was trapped LBW with the new ball to leave Kent on 239-4; ending an innings of 149 off 231 balls at the crease. This dismissal sparked a flurry of wickets in the final spell of day one as Barker removed Ollie Robinson (7) and Matt Milnes (4) in quick succession, whilst Abbas took the key wicket of stubborn Cox for 51 leaving the batsmen a job to survive the final two overs to leave the hosts on 271-7 with two additional bonus points apiece at the close.
Kent resumed day two in stubborn form as they survived the first five hours without loss, but lost critical momentum when Barker dismissed Darren Stevens for 23 runs and Nathan Gilchrist for a duck to finish with figures of 6-53 off twenty-four overs. And the home first innings was over as Jackson Bird was caught by a substitute fielder off Abbas with the score on 305, Hamidullah Qadri finishing 23 not out down the other end to help his side sneak a third batting point for their efforts. In response Hampshire started quickly but lost Joe Weatherley (18) caught in the slips after twelve overs with the visitors on 47-1 at the second lunch interval.
And when Ian Holland (25) fell LBW to a cracking delivery off the seam from Gilchrist to leave the away side on 57-2 just twenty minutes into the afternoon session, Kent would have been forgiven for thinking the door was ajar for further dismissals. However this metaphorical door was firmly shut by Nick Gubbins and James Vince with the captain particularly impressive; unfurling his trademark cover drives and was dismissive through the leg side with Kent bowlers bowling too close to his pads. Both batsmen increased the run rate to over 4 per hour with Gubbins reaching his half century whilst Vince also brought up his quick fifty off 48 balls including ten fours. The brilliant partnership off 136 runs was soon over just before tea when Gubbins was caught behind for 69 to become Gilchrist’s 2nd wicket; Liam Dawson joining Vince to survive a Kent spell of pressure to ensure Hampshire were 219-3 going into the evening session, just 86 runs behind the hosts.
Vince had a scare on 68 after tea as he edged past the slip fielder for a boundary, but was otherwise in fine form as he reached his 27th first class century off ninety-nine balls. However he was unable to build much further as he was dismissed for 111 including nineteen boundaries, loosely steering a low shot off Gilchrist to Cox at 1st slip; the captain trudging off disappointed to a much deserved applause. Starting the partnership at 275-4, Dawson duly completed his half century and Brown added another forty-two runs with the bat to ensure Hampshire led by thirty-two runs at the close with the score on 337-4 despite bowlers’ best efforts.
Day three began on a placid looking pitch with Dawson and Brown continuing to dominate the Kent bowling attack; the latter bringing up his first Hampshire half ton after previous close shaves within the opening 45 minutes. Dawson then reached his 100 as he stroked Milnes down to the boundary with the visitors also securing all batting points as they crossed 400. The pair soon reached lunch after surviving the new ball spell as the home seamers were well thwarted, Hampshire leading by 152 runs with the score on 457-4.
Brown became the third century maker for Hampshire after the resumption as he reached his ton off 161 deliveries, whilst Dawson passed 150 after being dropped by Robinson as the partnership broke a long record. But Kent finally broke through in the 49th over of the day as Dawson holed out a spinning Muyeye delivery to Cox ending a career best of 171 off 268 balls, whilst Brown reached 150 before being caught for 157 as Gilchrist held on brilliantly to make it 573-6. But there was no respite despite the two dismissals as Barker (44) shared an unbroken 79-run stand with Felix Organ (44) off 13 overs to bring Hampshire to 662-6.
The visiting skipper declared at the tea interval to leave Kent’s top order facing a testing evening session trailing by 347 runs; Crawley and Compton batting well to survive an hour of bowling to reach 50-0 offering little chances. But in six balls of brilliance from Abbott the match switched as Crawley was trapped LBW for 29 and Bell-Drummond soon followed for a duck as he was caught at mid-off. Organ then got the third wicket as he bowled Muyeye for three before a short partnership saw Kent reach stumps on 78-3 after a tough day.
Compton and Cox started the fourth day with Kent sitting 279 runs behind, the two batsmen repelling the away bowlers in a patient partnership that passed fifty with a boundary sweep off Barker down the off side. Compton reached his fifty with a single in the first hour with Cox running well through the wickets; the home side surviving minor chances through play and misses as Hampshire pushed for the breakthrough. Despite away efforts and good fielding however, the hosts reached lunch unscathed with the scores on 161-3 with patient partnership building between the two batsmen beginning to frustrate the hopeful away contingent.
Barker finally made a big breakthrough just fifteen minutes into the afternoon session as Compton edged behind for 89 runs after a mammoth time at the crease, whilst new batter Robinson hit Organ for two quick boundaries before he was caught behind to leave Kent on 190-5. But any collapse was withheld by Stevens and Cox, the latter bringing up the 200 mark with a boundary before they survived for an hour adding 57 between them. A key wicket then fell with the last delivery before the new ball as Cox was caught off Organ, with Abbas dismissing Milnes for thirteen as Kent reached 287-7 at the tea interval still trailing by 60 runs.
Abbott picked up the ball as the crucial final session began, Hampshire needing three wickets and Kent hoping to survive two hours or even make the visitors bat again. But nobody expected the match to finish just six balls later as Qadri edged behind after hitting a boundary to fall for eleven, whilst Gilchrist was out next ball for a golden duck to leave the hosts on 292-9. A miracle was needed and although Bird smashed the hat-trick ball for a four, he was trapped LBW to confirm Abbott’s 5-29 and Hampshire’s innings victory.
The second win from three games mean Hampshire have risen to second in the table at this early stage; gaining the maximum 24 points available from this trip to Canterbury with Kent earning four bonus points. Vince’s side will now return to the Ageas Bowl on Thursday for their home clash against Lancashire before hosting Gloucestershire the following week in two huge opportunities to lay a title marker down to rivals.
PICTURED BY KENT CRICKET: Home batsman drives and starts to run down the crease, but these runs ended in vain as Hampshire pile on 600+ to seal an innings victory in Canterbury on Sunday afternoon.