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Stevens keeps up the good work

Darren Stevens once again dominated the Chelmsford stage between rain stoppages as Kent moved into a handy position on day two of their LV= County Championship Division Two battle with Essex.

Fresh from his four-wicket haul on the opening day when the home side were bowled out for 212, the 37 year-old all-rounder made a superb unbeaten 91 to guide Kent to a lead of two on 214 for five.

Arriving with his side in trouble at 43 for four, Stevens put the innings back on an even keel with a well-constructed knock of quality and controlled aggression.

Not that it comes as a surprise for the Essex players. On the same ground 12 months ago, he scored 119 out of a modest total of 225 after his side had lost half their wickets for only nine runs. He also scored a century at Chelmsford when the teams met in 2010.

On this occasion, Stevens, who has so far batted for almost four hours, was to underline his class again in helpful conditions for the bowlers and on a pitch where the occasional ball kept very low.

He accumulated runs with some fine strokes on either side of the wicket while receiving solid support from Ben Harmison, who went on to make 55 in a partnership worth 145.

Harmison was content to concentrate on solid defence; he needed 47 balls to reach double figures and a further 24 deliveries to arrive at lunch with 13 to his name.

His resilience was sadly lacking in others as Kent ran into early trouble after resuming on 20 for one.

Left-arm pace bowler Reece Topley struck twice in his opening four overs, bowling Brendan Nash with a beauty that moved into him.

The 19-year-old then had Mike Powell taken at second slip by Tom Westley from a delivery that lifted.

When Ravi Bopara strangled Sam Northeast down the leg side, wicketkeeper James Foster completing the catch, Kent found themselves in serious bother.

But further trouble was averted by Stevens and Harmison, the former completing his half-century from 91 balls with five boundaries.

Harmison needed 146 deliveries to record a fifty which contained six fours, by which time the 100 stand had been raised in 36 overs.

Essex used six bowlers in their attempts to separate them including off-spinner Westley, who was awarded his county cap during the match.

However, they were unable to call on Tom Craddock, the leg-spinner laid low with a stomach bug.

It was medium-pacer Ryan ten Doeschate, in his first match since returning from IPL duty, who finally broke the stand by having Harmison caught behind.

Yet Stevens remained to see Kent move into the lead in the final over of a day when 25 overs were lost due to the weather.

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