12:21pm Monday 26th May 2014
ALL-rounder Joe Leach’s first LV= County Championship five-wicket haul put Worcestershire in command on the opening day at Tunbridge Wells.
The 23-year-old comfortably bettered his previous first-class best of 4-73 with significant contributions at either end of Kent’s innings as the home side were dismissed for 258 just before the scheduled close.
Having removed Daniel Bell-Drummond and Robert Key early in the morning, reducing the hosts to 24-2, he returned in the final hour of the day to polish off the tail with the help of the second new ball.
Kent, having elected to bat, had twice threatened to stamp their authority on the game having negotiated a first hour which offered something to the seamers.
Firstly, a third-wicket stand of 93 between Sam Northeast (53) and Brendan Nash (41) gave the hosts a good platform.
Later in their innings, middle-order pair Ben Harmison (47) and Sam Billings (24) put on 65 for the sixth wicket.
However, Kent failed to press home their advantage on a slightly odd day, which witnessed two stoppages in play for light reflecting off car windscreens and then a skylight in a house adjoining the Nevill Ground, and eventually paid the price.
Having made early inroads, it looked like Worcestershire, second in Division Two, were set for a day of toil as Kent vice-captain Northeast eased some of the concerns over his form either side of lunch together with Nash.
With the visitors bowling a much tighter line of containment after the interval Northeast, who dropped down to number three in the batting line-up, brought up his half-century with a cut through point off Saeed Ajmal.
It was only the second time in 11 innings he had passed 50, having made just 122 runs in his previous 10 knocks.
The stand was broken when Nash edged seamer Jack Shantry to slip and Northeast, having equalled his best score this season, followed five balls later when he was pinned leg before playing back to star spinner Saeed.
Darren Stevens falling to the Pakistan international, for once playing second-fiddle to Leach, just before tea was crucial as it ensured the momentum was all Worcestershire’s going into the last session of the day.
Even then, Harmison and Billings seemed to have pulled things back in Kent’s favour until the latter played across one of Moeen Ali’s off-spinners and was pinned in front with the score on 210-6.
With the day still hanging in the balance, Worcestershire took the new ball as soon as it was available and seamer Charlie Morris quickly removed Harmison’s middle stump.
Having resisted the temptation to hook Morris, Mitch Claydon departed doing exactly that when Leach was also recalled to the attack and, shortly before the close, the Worcestershire academy graduate removed Robbie Joseph and Adam Riley to finish with fine figures of 5-36.
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