Kent romped to their second successive three-day victory in Canterbury and to a third Specsavers County Championship win on the bounce after defeating Division 2 rivals Derbyshire by 169 runs.
After setting the visitors a nominal victory target of 409, Sam Northeast’s unbeaten side coasted home with a day and 28 balls to spare after dismissing the visitors for 239 second time around and despite a counter-attacking 97 from Gary Wilson.
As for Kent’s new head coach, Matt Walker, he has yet to taste defeat since taking over the helm from Jimmy Adams. He said: “We targeted at the turn of the year that we needed to start the season better as we haven’t done that in the past five or six years, so to get three from three is great.
“This was a different type of game to the previous two, a sporting wicket and we didn’t have this one all our own way, but we’ve battled through it and come out with more good points in the bank. We wanted to improve out resilience and ruthlessness as a team and I’m not sure that last year we would have fronted up as well as we have in this type of game."
Kent’s in-form all-rounder Darren Stevens snaffled another three victims, for nine in the match and 22 for the season to date, while James Harris returned four for 56 – his best figures since joining on loan from Middlesex.
Batting after lunch and with a mountain to climb, Derbyshire – who have never scored 300 in a fourth innings against Kent – lost skipper Billy Godleman in only the fourth over of the reply. The left-hander’s airy drive against Stevens flew off a thick edge and into the hands of James Tredwell at second slip.
Then, with 21 on the board Shiv Thakor, driving with an open bat face to one from Wayne Parnell, clipped a catch to Joe Denly in the gully to depart for six.
After receiving treatment for a blow to the knee, Luis Reece fended at the next delivery from Harris to edge to slip then Wayne Madsen, after an impudent, steered six over third man, departed leg before to a Matt Coles off-cutter. Harris bagged another by plucking out Darren Smit’s leg stump via an inside edge as the right-hander aimed an ambitious drive.
After losing five, mid-session wickets inside 25 overs, Wilson, the former Surrey, and Ireland keeper led a partial Derbyshire recovery either side of tea by scoring an enterprising 46-ball 50 with 10 fours that knocked Kent’s attack temporarily out of kilter.
After contributing 12 to a sixth-wicket stand of 80 in tandem with Wilson, Alex Hughes pushed at a Stevens away-swinger and nicked behind to see Adam Rouse tumble in front of slip to take an athletic catch. Then, after an erratic and somewhat impatient stay, Jeevan Mendis smeared across the line against Stevens to edge once more to Rouse.
Harris switched ends to the Nackington Road and, with his third ball down the slope, had Tom Milnes caught behind, then, with Wilson only three short of his maiden championship century for his new club, Harris jagged one back off the seam to trap the right-hander flush in front and leg before. Coles polished the job off soon after by having Will Davis caught at mid-off to spark further Kentish celebration.
Earlier, Kent wicketkeeper Rouse narrowly missed out on a maiden first-class hundred as Kent batted through to lunch in adding a further 166 to their second innings total. Rouse was left high-and-dry on 95 when Kent’s last man Tredwell chipped a tame catch to mid-on to give Madsen his sole wicket of the game and end Kent’s innings with 308 on the board.
Resuming on their overnight score from day two of 142 for seven, Kent’s eighth-wicket partners Rouse and Stevens continued to bat positively in extending their side’s lead beyond 300.
Having reached his season’s best score, Stevens was only ten short of a century from only 86 balls faced when he fell to the first delivery of the day from leg-spinner Mendis. Pushing down the line of off and expecting turn, Stevens played outside the line of a top-spinner and departed lbw, having added 90 in tandem with Rouse. It was the eighth time in first-class cricket that Stevens has departed in the nervous 90s.
Zimbabe-born Rouse went on to record only his second half-century in first-class cricket from 65 balls, with 11 fours. Not content with that, the 24-year-old gloveman improved on his previous career-best of 65 in first-class cricket, posted against Glamorgan in Cardiff last June.
After helping to add 83 in 15.1 overs for the ninth wicket, Harris (32) became Kent’s second casualty of the day, clipping a low catch to Luis Reece at mid-wicket off the bowling of Davis, but, by then, the hosts were already 384 ahead. Davis was the pick of Derbyshire’s attack with three for 48 while Tony Palladino and Milnes picked up two wickets apiece.
Kent collected 21 points for the third straight game to go second in Division Two, while Derbyshire, winless after two games, banked only three points after suffering an indifferent three days in the south east.
Derbyshire skipper Billy Godleman was understandably disappointed by his side’s second reverse, but praised the overall character and some individual performances over the three days. “The first 90 minutes of the match was disappointing in that we conceded too many runs, but the way in which the group stuck together and fought our way back into the game, not once, but twice, was really pleasing to see.
“Moving forward I’d like to think we can learn from this and next time we arrive at the opposition’s ground and out them in, that we’ll start much better than we did here. "We also saw come good batting performances here from Wayne Madsen and today, from Gary Wilson who was really unlucky to miss out on his ton. He showed guts, determination and great skill, which is Gary to a tee, and I’m disappointed for him that he couldn’t make three figures.”