A gritty day’s cricket on a slow Bristol pitch, which offered the seam bowlers some assistance all day, ended with Gloucestershire all out for 221 in 94.2 overs. It was attritional fare that didn’t match the glorious late summer weather, and ended with Kent in very much in control after an excellent bowling performance by their quintet of seamers.
The star bowler was Hardus Viljoen, the South African who played against England last winter and has joined Kent for their remaining Championship matches. He took an impressive 5/55 on debut.
That Gloucestershire batted all day was due mainly to a fifth wicket stand of 82 in 228 balls between Hamish Marshall (58) and Phil Mustard (38), which occupied the whole afternoon session. It was an admirable effort from two players who are better known for their aggressive quick scoring.
Kent had the best of the morning session, taking four home wickets for 84 from 31 overs of high quality seam bowling after Gloucestershire batted first following an uncontested toss. Darren Stevens, opening from the Pavilion End, soon accounted for Chris Dent who dragged on for a duck. The veteran all-rounder then had Gareth Roderick, who was returning to the side after an finger injury, lbw shouldering arms to one that kept low for 23.
Kent’s seamers were making the home batsmen struggle with their accurate bowling. The introduction of Hardus Viljeon saw Kent capture the prize wicket of Michael Klinger. The South African quickie trapped Klinger lbw for 10, to make Gloucestershire 59/3.
Soon after Will Tavare, who had shown solid resistance, totally misjudged a pull to a ball from Will Gidman and was bowled for 20. Gidman, a firm favourite from his time at Bristol, bowled an excellent spell from the Ashley Down End. His many admirers in these parts must be baffled at his lack of opportunities at Nottinghamshire, from whom he is on loan at Canterbury.
After lunch Marshall and Durham loanee Mustard applied themselves with great determination, as the Kent bowlers strove to break through to the Gloucestershire latter order. It was not exciting watching, but a compelling argument against those who hold that modern batters are incapable of prolonged, dogged resistance. Such was their application that they batted through the 33 over afternoon session unbeaten, adding just 61 runs. At tea Marshall was on 36 and Mustard on 34.
In the way that cricket throws up such curiosities, Mustard was out in the first over after tea flicking Viljoen down the leg side where Billings held on to the low catch. His 38 had taken 117 balls and was an innings of enormous value to his team.
Jack Taylor joined Marshall and quickly sought to wrest control from the bowlers in his usual swashbuckling manner, hitting James Tredwell into the pavilion for six. Marshall’s gritty effort continued. He reached his 50 from 166 balls but soon after Taylor was caught off Claydon for 24.
With Gloucestershire on 189/6, Kent had assumed control.
Marshall’s patient resistance was ended when he became Viljoen’s third victim – lbw for 58, made from 192 balls. David Payne was Viljoen’s fourth scalp, bowled for one. Liam Norwell was caught off Matt Coles and when Miles was caught at slip off Viljoen the South African’s day was complete.
Well though Viljoen bowled, he was not the only Kent bowler to deliver impressive figures. Stevens, in particular, bowled superbly to return 2/30 from 20 tight overs.
After play Marshall complimented the Kent attack, saying how few ‘freebies’ they bowled all day on what he thought was a pitch that lacked pace and bounce. in addition, he felt that how far below par his side’s score is will be apparent tomorrow when Kent bat. Clearly the Gloucestershire bowlers will have to be at their best.