Darren Stevens took his season’s first-class wicket-tally to a career-high 43 as his 5-68 spearheaded an 89-run Kent victory against Surrey at Guildford to propel them into the LV= County Championship Division Two promotion race.
Surrey, set 303 to win in 76 overs after Kent had been bowled out in their second innings for 292, with Sam Billings hitting an unbeaten 57, crumbled to 213 all out as Stevens and his fellow seamers Mitch Claydon and Calum Haggett impressed. Claydon took 3-62 and Haggett 2-48.
An excellent, pacy pitch at Woodbridge Road has made for highly-entertaining cricket across all four days of this match, and Surrey’s top-order batsmen were scoring at a rate of around five runs per over even though they kept losing wickets throughout a hot, sunny afternoon.
The end came when Stevens had Tim Linley caught at first slip for four, with 22.1 overs still remaining, and Kent’s 24-point win – their fourth of the season – pushes them 23 points behind second-placed Surrey, and with two games still in hand.
— Jamie Clifford (@cliffordjamie) July 23, 2014
Kent have also played a game fewer than both Hampshire and Essex, who occupy third and fourth positions, and so this result has really given them a good chance of getting into one of the two second division promotion spots.
Day four began with Kent only 239 runs ahead at 229 for six, but Billings and Haggett extended their seventh-wicket partnership – which was 51 overnight – to 85 to frustrate Surrey’s efforts to finish off the second innings quickly.
Haggett, who had done well with both bat and ball on his first championship appearance of the season, had made 44 off 87 balls, with six fours, when he touched a vicious lifter from Stuart Meaker to Rory Burns, who was still deputising behind the stumps for Gary Wilson, with the Surrey captain fielding instead to protect a bruised hand.
Billings, who also made an unbeaten 82 in Kent’s first innings, played some more high-class strokes to ensure the lead topped 300 before Surrey had winkled out tailenders Claydon, Charlie Hartley and Adam Riley.
Meaker had Claydon caught at first slip for six with another thunderbolt, and after a short rest he returned to finish things off by finding Riley’s edge and seeing Vikram Solanki snaffle the catch at second slip.
In between, Linley saw Hartley poke him tamely to backward point, but the bowling star for Surrey was undoubtedly fast bowler Meaker, whose second innings 7-90 gave him a match haul of 11-196.
Surrey lost both openers in the 35 minutes they had to bat before lunch, with Claydon producing a brute of a ball to have Burns caught at the wicket for 11 and Zafar Ansari inside-edging Haggett to Billings on eight.
— Surrey Cricket (@surreycricket) July 23, 2014
Solanki went soon after lunch, caught at first slip off Haggett for 13 to leave Surrey 49 for three, and Kent kept chipping away during the middle session even though runs were coming rapidly on a fast-scoring ground and lightning outfield.
Steven Davies reached 25 from 21 balls, with five fours, before Claydon had him fending to Riley at second slip and the same bowler struck a big blow for his team by trapping Jason Roy lbw for 13 with one that kept low.
Tillakaratne Dilshan kept attacking, going to 68 from just 64 balls, before he drove once too often at Stevens and edged to second slip.
Stevens also removed Wilson before tea, taken for 27 at backward point by Sam Northeast as he cut one that was a little too close to him.
In the final session it was all about Stevens, with the 38-year-old all-rounder sending back Meaker, Gareth Batty and then Linley – all edging to either Billings or the slips – to wrap up the game.
Stevens, who finished with match figures of 9-178 and bowled more than 50 overs in the game, said: "My first six overs went for 40 runs, when Rob Key gave me the new ball, to be honest I didn't quite have my mind on the job.
"So it was good to come back, when the ball was slightly older, and try to get into a bit of rhythm and to have a bit more protection with a number of fielders on the boundary.
"Dilshan was coming hard at us by then, and so to get him during my second spell really put us on top and, after that, it was just a case of working hard and working our way through their batting.
"It was a tough match and a very good game, on a pitch with some life in it, and my body is killing me at the moment. I need a cold beer and a hot bath."
Surrey skipper Wilson said: "We just have to try our best now to win our last three Championship matches and see where that leaves us.
"It was the right decision to bowl first on day one, but we didn't bowl as well as we should have done on that opening day.
"Having said that, we were happy enough to be chasing 303 in the conditions, but we couldn't get partnerships going and that's disappointing. Stuart Meaker, in particular, didn't deserve to be on the losing side."