Six of the best from Balcombe
David Balcombe marched towards career-best bowling figures of 6-51 to give Kent the edge against neighbours Essex on an opening day that saw 15 wickets fall in the LV= County Championship Division Two clash at Canterbury.
Overcast conditions and a sporting pitch gave the bowlers the edge as Essex were all out for a meagre 144, with on-loan Hampshire seamer Balcombe picking up his third haul of five wickets or more in an innings in his four championship starts for Kent.
A half-century from Joe Denly at the top of the order helped Kent gain a slight advantage as they closed on 160 for five, with David Masters and and Ryan ten Doeschate sharing the wickets.
Kent - who were without injured captain and opening batsman Rob Key - posted 51 for the first wicket before Daniel Bell-Drummond was stumped by James Foster off former Kent seamer Masters.
In-form Denly coasted to a 48-ball 50 and appeared in little trouble until another ball from Masters kept a little low to snare the right-hander leg before and make it 79 for two.
Sam Northeast fenced at one from Masters that climbed off the pitch to steer a catch to first slip, then Darren Stevens paid the price for an ambitious drive against ten Doeschate that rattled the middle and off stumps.
Martin van Jaarsveld limped to 17 before he too went leg before, although he appeared to get a slight inside edge on the delivery from ten Doeschate, but James Tredwell and acting skipper Geraint Jones took Kent into the lead in surviving through to the close.
Essex lost five wickets during an overcast first session after winning the toss and electing to bat first.
After accurate new-ball stints from Matt Coles and Stevens, it took the sixth ball of the day from Balcombe to fashion Kent’s first breakthrough after 14 overs.
Billy Godleman’s late decision to shoulder arms proved costly when the ball jagged back in to trim the left-hander’s off stump and make it 25 for one.
Owais Shah lasted five deliveries before he pushed down the wrong line of a swinging delivery to go leg before to Stevens.
And, with 31 against his name, Tom Westley drove airily at a Stevens awayswinger only to snick to second slip.
Balcombe, in the second month of his temporary move from Hampshire, impressed again by having Adam Wheater caught at backward point after the diminutive right-hander had seemingly checked and sliced an attempted cover drive.
In the over before lunch Jaik Mickleburgh, in trying to withdraw his bat, only succeeded in gloving the ball onto his stump to give Balcombe a third wicket. The batsman then spent much of the afternoon having his hand X-rayed.
The Essex innings simply unravelled after the break as they lost their last five wickets for 69 runs to be dismissed just after 3pm.
Captain James Foster top-scored with a watchful 38 from 75 balls before skying a slower ball to extra cover off Balcombe.