Derbyshire’s seamers recovered from a patchy opening hour to offer the Kent batsmen a stern examination on the opening day of their Specsavers County Championship clash at an overcast Canterbury.
When bad light ended play with 15 scheduled overs remaining, Kent had battled on to reach 238 for eight after 81 overs, having been seemingly in charge and sitting pretty at 83 without loss after the opening 99 minutes of the match.
Fielding first after an uncontested toss, Derbyshire bowlers had made a sloppy start in offering too many leg-side and overpitched deliveries, which Daniel Bell-Drummond and Sean Dickson (41) happily dispatched to pick up 15 boundaries in their opening stand.
That was the precursor to a dramatic collapse that saw the hosts lose four wickets for five runs in the space of 15 deliveries. Will Davis started the rout with two wickets in as many balls. Dickson drove loosely at a wide away swinger to nick to the keeper, then Joe Denly departed for a duck when he played outside the line of an in-ducker to go lbw after barely moving his feet.
Sam Northeast survived the hat-trick delivery, but Bell-Drummond followed for a season’s best 38 when he nibbled at one from left-armer Luis Reece for Darren Smit to dive in front of first slip and pull off a stunning one-handed catch.
Kent’s misery continued when Will Gidman (0) played outside a Davis in-swinger to go leg before as Kent limped in at lunch on 91 for four, despite bowling the tidiest of bowling tints, Tony Palladino ended the session wicketless.
In-form fifth-wicket partners Northeast and Darren Stevens hauled their side’s total into three figures after lunch but, with his score on 17, Stevens got a leading edge to a late-swinging delivery from Tom Milnes to chip a low, return catch back to the bowler.
After helping to post 48 for the sixth wicket Northeast departed for 32 after 103 minutes at the crease. Pushing with firms hands at one from Reece, the Kent skipper edged behind to give Gary Wilson, the keeper, a second catch.
Fresh from an unbeaten half-century at Hove in his only previous innings of the season, Wayne Parnell contributed a useful 41 before he fell to Reece. Prodding down and squared up by late away swing, the left-hander edged to third slip to make it 193 for seven.
James Tredwell and Adam Rouse saw Kent through to 200 for their first batting bonus point, but with his score on seven, Tredwell perished to the fifth ball of the day from leg-spinner Jeevan Mendis. Working across the line to one that dipped late, Tredwell was lbw to one that hit him flush on the right boot.
The floodlights came on for the final session of the day when, after an initial ten-minute stoppage for bad light, the day’s events finished early at 5.51pm with Rouse, who played the longest innings of the day, and James Harris, still unbeaten with their side still 12 shy of a second batting bonus point.
After spending the last two hours of the day at the crease, Rouse argued that Kent already have a decent score on the board. He said: “We felt Derbyshire got their lengths slightly wrong at the start there before they really started to hit their straps and make it tougher for us.
“By the time I got in it was a case of digging to get us through a tricky period and I’d like to think that partnership at the end can give us a bit of momentum going into tomorrow. We’ll push for a second bonus point, but the first hour will be crucial.”
Derbyshire skipper Billy Godleman praised his side’s character. He said: “After electing to bowl first we would have wanted to have put the ball around the off or fourth stump area a lot more than we did in that first hour, but we showed great fight and courage to go again thereafter.
“We reassessed our position and went back to the plans we’d talked about before the start and to everyone’s credit we fought back. We fielded well, threw ourselves around and took good catches because we were clear that every run on this wicket and in these overcast conditions may well be vital.”
The hosts made one change to the side that comfortably defeated Sussex last week. Harris, the Middlesex loanee seamer, getting the nod at the expense of the unfortunate Mitch Claydon, who had taken five wickets in the win at Hove. Derbyshire were unchanged from the side that suffered a narrow defeat to Northamptonshire in their only previous start.