THERE WERE signs yesterday of a new “Kent variant”.
The team bottom of County Championship Group Three singularly failed to play to that standard, scoring a respectable 224-7 against Yorkshire after being sent into bat.
Zak Crawley the England batsman, led the way with 90 and Jack Leaning, with whom he shared a fourth-wicket stand of 79, struck 47 against his former club.
That Yorkshire bowled well for long periods reflected even more favourably on the visitors’ display; “there are no easy games in County Championship Group Three, tha knows,” quipped an imaginary wag in the imaginary crowd.
“It was hard work out there and, in fairness to them, Crawley and Jack Leaning played really nicely,” said Steve Patterson, the Yorkshire captain.
Patterson said that the decision to bowl was because Yorkshire had expected a similar surface to the livelier one against Northants last week, only for this to prove slower with less bounce.
“The pitch was probably very different, but I thought the way we stuck at it was really pleasing,” he added. “We’ve still got a brand new ball in the morning and, if we can bowl them out for 240/250, I think we’d be very happy with that.”
In the last Championship game at Headingley before the expected return of crowds, Yorkshire found themselves facing the team who provided the opposition when crowds last watched Championship cricket at the ground.
On that occasion, Kent won by 433 runs to achieve the highest victory by a runs margin in their history and to inflict on Yorkshire their heaviest defeat.
Times have changed in more ways than one, and the anticipated pattern appeared to have been set here when Ben Coad struck with the sixth ball of the game on his return from a shoulder injury.
Coad had the Kent captain Daniel Bell-Drummond smartly caught low down at third slip by Harry Brook, and the wise money then would have been on a consistent clatter of wickets.
But Crawley showed early signs of being determined to put behind him an underwhelming start to the season (one half-century in eight innings), with one on-drive off Coad to the Kirkstall Lane boundary so exquisite that it was really wasted on anything less than a full house.
Yorkshire, though, gave little away and bowled accurately in the milky sunshine that sometimes peeked through pockets of clouds, led by the miserly Jordan Thompson and Patterson himself.
Both struck before lunch to leave Kent 66-3 after a morning that was not so much Darren Stevens as even-stevens, with both sides having cause to be relatively satisfied.
Patterson had Jordan Cox edging to second slip, where Adam Lyth held on moving to his right, and Thompson induced a loose drive from Joe Denly that also flew to safe hands Lyth.
Thompson’s wicket came during an impressive spell at the Kirkstall Lane end as Yorkshire’s whole-hearted all-rounder found plenty of nip to go with the nous.
Leaning took 28 balls to get off the mark, a long time to stew over the thought of a third successive duck against his former colleagues after he recorded a pair when Yorkshire won in Canterbury last month. Leaning deftly turned Coad to the fine-leg boundary to avoid that fate, a stroke he followed by easing the same bowler to the cover rope.
Leaning has had a tough time of late; his scores going into the game were 0, 0, 12, 0, 2 and 8, with only a fifty in the first match at Northants to lift his mood.
But as he proved so often at Yorkshire, Leaning is a fighter who is usually at his best when the chips are down, and one could only admire the way that he battled it out and kept Crawley company during a stand that held Yorkshire up for some 32 overs.
Crawley finally misjudged one from Patterson that he chipped to cover, where Joe Root completed the formalities, Crawley facing 171 balls and hitting 13 fours.
Leaning and Ollie Robinson added 62 before Leaning chased a wide one from Brook and edged to Lyth at slip, having batted for 153 balls and hit six fours.
Moments later, Brook dropped Stevens before he had scored – a difficult chance low to his left at third slip off Thompson. Stevens hit 237 and took seven wickets when Kent won here two years ago, but the miss was not costly as Coad had him caught behind shortly after inducing Robinson to clip to Thompson at mid-wicket, with rain claiming the last 6.5 overs.
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