Kent197 (Denly 59, Barker 5-32) and 446 for 8 dec (Dickson 133, Denly 119, Barker 4-64)beat Warwickshire 125 (Trott 51*, Podmore 4-26, Henry 4-54) and 445(Bell 172, Sibley 112, Hose 65, Podmore 4-84, Denly 3-24) by 73 runs
If you are attempting to beat a 93-year-old record which was set, in part, by the future Baron Aberdare of Duffryn, your efforts could have no finer setting than Tunbridge Wells. Hosting county cricket at the Nevill Ground appears not to be a priority for its owners, the local council, but this sacred field has long been ennobled by cricket lovers. And when they gathered, on a morning of high clouds and sweet scents, spectators wondered if they might see Warwickshire score 519, thus achieving the highest successful fourth-innings pursuit in the history of the County Championship, a mark set when Middlesex scored 502 to beat Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 1925.
That the visitors failed in their quest, albeit by only 73 runs, can be explained by the team-spirit and collective will of a Kent team who are enjoying a lovely season. And perhaps that determination should now be matched by the executives responsible for keeping four-day county cricket at Tunbridge Wells. If the will is strong enough, the aim can invariably be achieved.
Such longer-term considerations must of necessity be far from the minds of the Kent players as they reflect on their fourth Championship win in six games, a victory which leaves them only eight points shy of Warwickshire at the top of the table. But the will of Joe Denly‘s players needed to be very strong indeed on a Saturday when the growing humidity reflected the match’s progress towards its climax. Not until Denly ended the game by taking three wickets in six balls, the first two of them lbws, did wickets fall in clumps; and until Adam Hose was ninth out for 65,his team retained a sliver of hope.
That hope was rather stronger at the start of the day, when Warwickshire resumed needing 290 to win with nine wickets in hand. But a game we had expected might be decided by one of its matinee idols eventually starred a cricketer who has served his time in repertory. While on Middlesex’s books, Harry Podmore went out on loan to both Derbyshire and Glamorgan. They are both fine counties but they were not places where Podmore could hang his hat. Now at Kent, the seameris hoping to play in next Saturday’s Royal London Cup Final at Lord’s and has probably helped his chances by returning career-best match figures of 8 for 110 in this game
Podmore took the two wickets to fall in the morning session and both were significant. Having made his first century of a tough season, Dominic Sibley nicked him straight to Heino Kuhn at slip and departed for 112. Two overs later Jonathan Trott edged the same bowler to Adam Rouse, whose delight when he hurled the ball into the air probably reflected his relief that his dropping of Ian Bell on 148 an over or so earlier might not be too expensive in the broader sweep of things.
Ah yes, Ian Bell at Tunbridge Wells. Sometimes this game writes its own poetry. Even in a first half hour marked by nothing more than diligent accumulation and the odd alarm. Bell was as easy on the eye as one remembered from his great seasons. Few players invest a forward defensive shot with quite so much grace and precision. The ECB can negotiate broadcasting deals until their flipcharts fall off the walls but if England’s middle-order comprised Bell, James Vince and James Hildreth, BBC4 would cover Test matches.
And thus it was when Bell was leg before to Ivan Thomas in the seventh over of the afternoon that Warwickshire’s chances diminished markedly. Bell had batted for a minute over six hours and stroked 24 fours in his 172 runs. But the ball jagged back and pinned him; and in that moment the game turned. Perhaps Kent’s players knew it, for their joy was illimited.
Warwickshire lost three more batsmen in the afternoon session and took tea on 414 for 7. Five overs after Bell’s dismissal Tim Ambrose had his off stump knocked askew by a fine ball from that Stakhanovite labourer, Matt Henry. In the next hour Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel fell to slip catches. At no stage did Warwickshire crumple but their grip on the game was loosening.
Less than an hour after tea and just when some spectators were pondering the time and overs left in the game, Denly deployed his legspin. He bowled 19 balls and three of them took wickets. Middlesex’s record was safe. One hopes the future of county cricket at Tunbridge Wells is even safer.