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Stevens and Harmison spare Kent

Ben Harmison and Darren Stevens starred with the bat as Kent averted first-innings embarrassment against Worcestershire at New Road.

The duo put on a partnership of 174 for the fifth wicket, yet both players missed out on the centuries they deserved, with Stevens falling five runs short of a third hundred of the season while towering left-hander Harmison was similarly unlucky when he fell for 96 after batting for nearly four-and-a-half hours.

Their efforts, however, helped Kent to a total of 324 all out in 95.5 overs. The visitors wriggled out of a bleak situation when they were put in to bat and lost their top four for 25 during a spell of 3-20 by Worcestershire seamer Gareth Andrew.

For Stevens this set up another opportunity to act as trouble-shooter and the 37-year-old all-rounder continued a successful run with the bat by reaching 720 runs from his last 10 championship innings.

Having timed his attacking shots so well, it came as a surprise when he was dismissed in the 90s for the third time this season.

Clipping a ball from medium-pacer Joe Leach off his pads, he was comfortably caught by Moeen Ali at short midwicket after hitting 13 fours and two sixes from 125 balls.

Although Harmison was not always as fluent as his fifth-wicket partner, he picked up 16 fours before was bowled, attempting to drive Jack Shantry.

This gave the left-arm seamer a second wicket in nine balls, having previously trapped James Tredwell for 10, but Calum Haggett and Durham loanee Mitch Claydon – 34 not out and 33 respectively - had few problems while putting on 52 in 16 overs, mostly against the second new ball.

This represented a big turnaround after the home side's flying start when skipper Daryl Mitchell won the toss.

Sam Northeast nudged a straightforward chance to first slip in Andrew's third over and the next three wickets disappeared in the space of 17 balls.

Daniel Bell-Drummond never looked settled and the collapse was under way when Andrew cut one back into his pads.

Alan Richardson then claimed his 44th championship wicket of the season when Rob Key edged to wicketkeeper Ben Cox and Brendan Nash went the same way, flashing at a wider delivery from Andrew.

Stevens and Harmison stabilised the innings up to lunch and then took control as the second session yielded 126 runs in 33 overs.

While Stevens was never less than positive, reaching 50 with a straight driven six off Andrew, Harmison went through a sticky period, edging Graeme Cessford for boundaries off successive balls before regaining his touch.

With Stevens out shortly before tea, Geraint Jones played a cameo innings containing four fours but perished for 17 to give RAF corporal Cessford a first success on his home debut.

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