Ripley rues lost strength after late wickets

Action from Northamptonshire versus Kent. Pictures by Dave Ikin
Action from Northamptonshire versus Kent. Pictures by Dave Ikin

The summer solstice must have seemed even longer to Kent than normal, as they put themselves under pressure in their LV= County Championship match with Northamptonshire at Wantage Road.

Having been dismissed for just 140 on what has been one of the country’s flattest wickets, that they fought back later to limit Northamptonshire to 193 for 7 shows just how dire their situation was in mid-afternoon.

Action from Northamptonshire versus Kent. Pictures by Dave Ikin

Action from Northamptonshire versus Kent. Pictures by Dave Ikin

The pleasant Sunday conditions were in contrast to the mizzle that ruined Saturday’s opening day and in fairness to the visitors, the green tinge to the pitch suggested something as spicy as the curry on the nearby Wellingborough Road.

Despite the early loss of both openers, Kent seemed well placed at 93 for 2 with Rob Key and Sam Northeast playing shots all around the square. That was with ten minutes left in the session when the largely self-inflicted carnage took place.

Previously the model of consistency this season, Northeast was unsure whether to leave or play at Rory Kleinveldt outside the off stump and ending up edging to wicketkeeper Adam Rossington for 36. Darren Stevens was LBW to the very next ball and three further deliveries later, Key was bowled for 35, playing all around one from Azharullah.

Tredwell’s dismissal - bowled Azharullah for 0 - on the stroke of lunch, meant that four wickets had fallen in a remarkable 19 ball spell and Kent were 97 for 6.

Action from Northamptonshire versus Kent. Pictures by Dave Ikin

Action from Northamptonshire versus Kent. Pictures by Dave Ikin

Forty-four balls after lunch, Kent were all out and although Azharullah (5 for 31) and Kleinveldt (5 for 41) bowled well to produce the home side’s best and second-best bowling figures of the season, the movement was hardly excessive.

Northamptonshire’s players showed on occasions that with application, batting was far from impossible and the likelihood is that the surface will improve further over the next two days.

The chief example of that was provided by 23 year-old Rob Keogh. Predominantly a legside player, he has the cool temperament to play the long innings as evidenced by his 163 not out to save the game at Derbyshire this season and 221 against Hampshire two years ago.

Keogh is closing in on 700 runs and has a chance of becoming the first Northamptonshire player to reach 1,000 first-class runs in a season since Stephen Peters in 2010. Alex Wakely’s 50 in support, helped Keogh run up 70 for the third wicket and while all batsmen played and missed during the day, it was a surprise when Keogh edged Matt Coles to Adam Ball at third slip for 68, with eight overs remaining in the day.

Action from Northamptonshire versus Kent. Pictures by Dave Ikin

Action from Northamptonshire versus Kent. Pictures by Dave Ikin

That was the first of three wickets in successive overs for Coles who finished with figures of 4 for 62. To add to Northants’ late woe, Cobb departed in Mitchell Claydon’s last over of the day to leave the home side 53 in front with three first-innings wickets left. This see-saw day leaves the remaining two days impossible to predict.

Coles was proud of Kent’s fightback in the day’s closing stages after a difficult beginning.

“It started off a little bit lively and did a bit more than what it did later in the evening. The opposition bowlers bowled very well early on and we planned to bowl as well as they did.”

“We didn’t execute our plans with the ball as well as we could have in the middle session,” he said. “We came out after tea and did our jobs as bowlers and got us back into the game.”

“It’s going to be a tough two days but we’ve got what it takes.”

Northamptonshire head coach David Ripley couldn’t disguise the evident frustration in the home dressing-room.

“I thought that was a chance missed,” he said.

“We were just three wickets down going into the final half hour, with two guys getting in.

“I thought Matt Coles ran in hard and bowled well, but it’s frustrating and we’ve let them back into it.”

“We’re still in a strong position, but we’d have been in a lot stronger position had we been four down at close and looking to bat Kent out of the game tomorrow.”