With Kent and Essex vying for top spot in Division 2 of the County Championship this match was of greater significance than previous years; although the local derby rivalry is strong and the 2 counties compete for the Mike Dennis Challenge Shield across the 4 games they play while in the same league.
My day started earlier than usual as I was at the ground to take a couple of photos of the 2 Kent debutants – Kagiso Rabada and Callum Jackson. I didn’t quite account for the lively Jamie Porter as I took a photo of the pair together; to say he has character would be an understatement as the photo bomb shows!
Kent captain Sam Northeast didn’t take the option to bowl so the toss was made, won by Ryan ten Doeschate he put Kent in to bat, which clearly suited both teams.
Kent had their new visiting overseas player in Rabada, Essex had their opening bat back from England, one Alastair Cook. I make no apologies for there being a fair few photos of both men here.
I’ve watched Cook play a lot of international cricket in the last few years, with both success and hard times and I have to say there’s always a carefree look to him when he’s ‘home’. He plays with a smile on his face in the field, very clearly enjoying his time with friends made over a number of years.
He takes the part of cap/helmet man, just mucking in, so on this day he collected Graham Napier’s cap from him to hand to the umpire, where there’s a helmet behind James Foster it’s always Cook who carries it from one end to the other. It’s lovely to see the mini races he has from one end of the wicket to the other, usually with Tom Westley, but with Nick Browne too. Coming home to Essex does the England man the power of good.
It can be hard to describe County Cricket in detail, but I have to say this day really didn’t go as I or I suspect the visiting Kent fans thought it might.
Tom Latham the New Zealand international batsman had made way for Rabada and Sam Billings was unavailable having been picked for the England T20 squad. All-rounder Matt Coles was also missing due to ‘an on-going employee/employer matter’. Daniel Bell-Drummond was unavailable due to a hand injury. That left Kent with a weaker batting line up than would have been ideal.
The Essex line up seemed to change overnight with the suggestion that Jesse Ryder would make way for Ashar Zaidi. Ryder certainly wasn’t included, but neither was Zaidi therefore Essex didn’t field an overseas player.
Fabian Cowdrey and Sean Dickson opened the batting, Jamie Porter and Graham Napier opened the bowling. To say the day went the way of the bowling team would be an understatement.
It seems that some watching the 4 day game forget they aren’t watching white ball cricket, the pace very rarely matches the short formats of the game. This was to be no exception as far as the accumulation of runs was concerned.
However Napier started the wicket taking side of things in the 6th over bowling Cowdrey for 3, Kent were on 17 for 1.
Joe Denly joined Dickson at the wicket and with the bowlers restricting Kent to 31 and Ravi Bopara taking the ball, he joined Napier in taking a wicket. Denly had made 5 before edging a ball to Foster, he didn’t wait for the umpire to raise a finger, off he walked.
31 for 2 turned into 31 for 3 when Dickson edged a ball to Foster, the bowler Porter was overjoyed as were his team mates. Things weren’t going too well for Kent.
Captain Northeast, a very capable batsman and Darren Stevens took up the mantle, I was looking forward to watching Northeast bat, he’s had some good knocks this season. Yet, being totally honest, as an Essex fan I was also rather shouty when Northeast did the edging the ball to Foster thing, this time from the bowling of Matt Quinn. Kent were on 48 for 4 and the captain had made 5.
In came Alex Blake, who it has to be said saved the day (in a way) for his team, Stevens stayed with Blake for 7 overs before falling LBW to Bopara, he’d scored 19 runs and Kent were on 74 for 5.
Over the next 26 overs Blake played a fine innings, seeing his team mates fall victim to the Essex bowlers – Adam Ball made 4 before being caught by Jaik Mickleburgh from the bowling of Porter.
Debutant Callum Jackson made a handy 19 before he was adjudged to be LBW from the bowling of Ryan ten Doeschate.
James Tredwell saw his bails fly with only 4 to his name with a fiery ball from Porter hitting his stumps.
Blake was running out of batting partners, he was joined by Rabada, a tall powerful young man he made 14 before being bowled by Dan Lawrence. Mitch Claydon was the last to come in and the last to be out, as he was caught by Mickleburgh from the bowling of Napier for 6.
Blake thoroughly deserved to each his century but the Essex bowlers had despatched his partners, he made an impressive 89 from the total of 207 for his team.
Nick Browne and Alastair Cook opened the batting for Essex, it would be interesting to see how they both fared against Rabada.
Cook of course was more than familiar with Rabada having faced him in South Africa. Rabada took Cook’s wicket twice in the 2nd test along another 2 wickets. He took 13 English wickets in the 3rd test and anther 13 in the 4th. That was some record!
But, this was a match in England and Rabada had a Duke ball rather than a Kookaburra to contend with. Both Browne and Cook looked comfortable at the wicket but it was indeed Rabada who took the first wicket as Browne was caught by Northeast having made 33. Essex were on 84 for 1.
Tom Westley joined Cook, the pair had batted successfully early in the season and carried on where they’d left off. With a ball remaining Rabada trapped Cook LBW on 49, Essex had moved on to 107 for 2 and play ended with the day very much ‘won’ by Essex.