Kent’s wily seamer Darren Stevens bagged six for 22 to help his side to secure a dramatic three-day victory in Canterbury where Gloucestershire were skittled for 61 in the space of 93 minutes.
Stevens, 40, joined forces with James Harris – making his on-loan debut from Middlesex – to dismiss the visitors inside 21 mid-session overs and wrap up an emphatic win with four sessions of this Specsavers County Championship clash remaining.
“I certainly didn’t see that coming," said the veteran Stevens. "There was plenty in the pitch for the bowlers if you put it in the right places and when we spoke after day one I thought 250 was a par score.
“We felt Gloucestershire bowled too short in our first innings and we went on to bowl better lengths and got dramatic rewards. It was a really good cricket pitch; plenty in there for the bowlers, but if you applied yourself with the bat you could score runs on it too. Joe Denly played brilliantly for us, I scraped a 50 and I felt Chris Dent was outstanding for them in their first innings. You needed to bide your time and wait for bad balls. It was old school cricket on a great cricket pitch.
"I thought Liam Norwell bowled brilliantly for Gloucestershire and their young bowling unit will only get better as they get older and wiser."
Gloucestershire’s unlikely victory target of 396 on a sporting St Lawrence pitch, suddenly became an insurmountable task once Kent’s new ball pairing of Stevens and Harris reduced the visitors to 14-4 in the space of 28 deliveries.
Cameron Bancroft (2) appeared bemused as he played down the wrong line to lose off stump to Harris, then first innings top-scorer Chris Dent (4) suffered a similar fate when shouldering arms to a Stevens in-swinger.
Will Tavare (4) prodded forward at Harris to feather a catch to the keeper and, next ball up, George Hankins threw the kitchen sink into a drive only to be caught in the cordon by Will Gidman at third slip.
Visiting skipper Phil Mustard survived the Harris hat-trick delivery but, without scoring, he nicked behind when aiming to drive a drifting in-ducker from Stevens. Graeme van Buuren (3) withdrew the bat against Stevens to lose off stump, as did Craig Miles (0) after groping inside the line of an away swinger to make it 24-7.
As they moved past 31 David Payne (6) at least spared Gloucestershire the ignominy of posting their lowest total against Kent – mustered at the Angel Ground, Tonbridge in 1903 – but, with 36 on the board, Payne sliced a back-foot force against Stevens to backward point where Daniel Bell-Drummond pouched a diving catch.
Jack Taylor (14) pushed defensively outside the line of another Stevens in-swinger to depart lbw then Liam Norwell, Kent’s tormentor with the ball, top-scored with 24 before he skied an attempted pull against Mitch Claydon to the keeper to finish the game by 3.50pm, while Harris completed his excellent debut with figures of three for 26 and six wickets in the game.
There was little or no signs of the drama that would follow at the start of day three as Kent batted on until shortly after lunch in adding 128 to their overnight total. Resuming on 118 for four the hosts were soon in trouble against fiery opening bursts from Norwell, who bagged three for nought in five balls.
Nightwatchman Harris (13) sparred at a Norwell lifter and edged through to keeper Mustard, Stevens lost his off stump when aiming an airy drive to a full delivery then, two balls later, Rouse also departed without scoring when he feathered one from Norwell to third slip where Tavare took a sharp chance.
With a five-wicket haul to his name and eight in the match, Norwell took a deserved rest, allowing experienced left-handers Gidman and James Tredwell to forge a vital eighth-wicket partnership that added an unbroken 60 through to the interval. In the process, Gidman scored a 101-ball 50 with eight fours.
The hosts came out swinging for late runs after lunch, but Gidman was bowled by Taylor without addition and, two balls later, Matt Coles fell to the same bowler after heaving across the line. Tredwell (47*) and Mitch Claydon (16) added a precious 52 for the last wicket before Claydon clipped to mid-on to leave Gloucestershire facing their unlikely victory target of 396 with more than four sessions of the game remaining.
Kent banked 21 points for their opening Division 2 win of the campaign while Gloucestershire headed home with only three.