Twelve wickets fell on Day One at Grace Road, with Matt Coles taking six of them as Kent fought back to take the best of their opening salvo with fellow-strugglers Leicestershire.
Having been put in to bat, Leicestershire will have been quietly satisfied on 87 for one in the 18th over, but a collapse of nine wickets for 72 runs quashed the hosts early advantage in the Midlands.
Kent’s reply was far from secure, however, with both openers departing in the 14 overs possible before rain halted proceedings as the visitors closed on 44/2, 115 runs behind in the first innings.
But the day ultimately belonged to Matt Coles: England ambitions were far from out of the question for the fast bowler a few years ago, but a disastrous Lion’s tour – more down to off-field issues – have left international honours back towards a pipedream for a player who chose home comforts ahead of divisional recognition.
Should Coles maintain performances like this, however, then he could once again be knocking on the door. His six for 55 today was just rewards for a probing spell, using the bowler-favourable conditions to his advantage to move to 48 first-class wickets for the campaign.
Coles made the initial breakthrough after an electric start by the hosts, with Matt Boyce fending at a rising delivery to be snaffled well by Adam Ball in the slips for 12.
Angus Robson and Ned Eckersley, the sole act of defiance with 41, put on 58 for the second wicket – punishing a far from accurate display from the Kent bowlers, before Robson feathered an edge through to Billings, again from Coles, to begin the onslaught.
Coles seemingly couldn’t be kept out of the game, taking one of two catches as Greg Smith – temporarily on loan from Nottinghamshire – lasted just one ball to be one of Calum Haggett’s two wickets, the bowler deserving far more for an unerringly economical spell.
Eckersley, captaining in the absence of Mark Cosgrove, wasn’t without chance as Darren Stevens put him down off Haggett, but Coles wasn’t to go without his man with Eckersley bowled from a pitched-up delivery that moved a fraction off the green Grace Road track.
At 93 for four, Leicestershire’s early advantage had just as quickly evaporated, and while Andrea Agathangelou (11) and debutant Aadil Ali (13) resisted, Stevens accounted for the pair to begin the procession – Ball and Coles taking the catches in the slips respectively.
It was Coles himself who ripped through the tail, taking three wickets in three overs as Lewis Hill, Ben Raine and Clint McKay all succumbed, before Haggett rounded off the innings with Ollie Freckingham top-edging to Daniel Bell-Drummond. 159 all out a disappointing return despite the pitch.
Bell-Drummond, fresh from his excellent century against Australia last week, failed to repeat his tricks when McKay trapped him leg before for just 7, and when Joe Denly was dismissed just two balls later, Leicestershire hopes were raised as they look to gain their first home victory in 21 attempts.