Sayers boosts Yorkshire
Joe Sayers’ career-best 187 gave Yorkshire’s seam bowlers the opportunity to put Kent under pressure at Tunbridge Wells.
Sayers fell short of a maiden double-hundred but underpinned the LV Division One leaders’ 551 for eight declared - before two wickets each for Darren Gough and Deon Kruis reduced the hosts to a vulnerable 116 for four by stumps on day two.
After Sayers had batted for almost four sessions against a Kent attack which presented minimal threat on a benign pitch, Yorkshire’s pace bowlers operated on a much more testing line than their opposite numbers had.
They were rewarded with just enough swing and one telling sign of life from a surface which had previously revealed very little to trouble the batsmen. Gough made a double breakthrough, with two wickets in one runless new-ball over.
First he had opener Joe Denly lbw and then got Martin van Jaarsveld for a third-ball duck, neatly caught at slip by Jacques Rudolph from a length delivery which lifted enough to take the shoulder of the bat.
Kruis took over from Gough at the Railway End and repeated the two-wicket dose, James Tredwell lbw to some full-length swing and Darren Stevens adjudged caught behind pushing forward.
It therefore fell to captain Robert Key to play a prominent role if Kent were to work their way past a follow-on target of 402 and therefore, presumably, save the match.
Key (59no), prolific in recent seasons on visits to this ground, dug in to post a no-frills 113-ball half-century by the close.
It was a significant contribution already from the opener, who found a determined ally in Neil Dexter as worsening light and the leg-spin varieties of Adil Rashid began to pose new questions of the batsmen.
Sayers had earlier been the mainstay of a Yorkshire innings which was augmented by two more half-centuries on Thursday from Rashid (54) and Tim Bresnan (55no). Resuming on 310 for three under heavy cloud cover, the visitors’ clear intent was to bat their hosts out of contention.
They were so determined to take no undue risks, it seemed, that they curiously spurned a fifth batting bonus point - passing 400 an over too late when Sayers pulled Simon Cook for four.
The opener had made 100 of his runs in boundaries by the time an attempted on-drive at Tredwell’s off-spin resulted in a low catch at short mid-off and ended his eight-and-a-half-hour, 379-ball tour de force.
His fellow left-hander and fourth-wicket partner Rudolph was dropped by Yasir Arafat on 17, diving in at third-man to try to collect an upper-cut off Andrew Hall.
The South African made the hosts pay, to a degree, before flashing a catch behind via a faulty cut at another compatriot Ryan McLaren to end a stand of 87.
Rashid joined Sayers, but neither showed significant concern as the 130-over cut-off point came and went with Yorkshire stuck in the 390s.
After Sayers had gone, though, Rashid made good post-lunch progress until he was caught driving Stevens’ medium-pace uppishly to cover immediately after reaching his half-century.
Bresnan and Simon Guy also got involved with some useful hitting, and Yorkshire called time as soon as the former had an 80-ball 50 in safe keeping.
Sayers reflected with much satisfaction on his third championship century of an industrious season so far.
“This performance stood out as one of my best,” he said.
“I’m very happy with the way I applied myself from the start of day one in this match.”
The 23-year-old was able to offer partial explanation too for his and Rashid’s failure, by six runs, to make sure of that extra batting point.
“The instruction was to go for it if we got close - and that is what we intended to do,” he reported.
“We were aware of it. But unfortunately in the two or three overs before the 130th, I didn’t get as much of the strike as I would have liked.
“If I had I would have been prepared to take the gamble.
“I think it’ll be one of the points we will talk about afterwards.”