All parties have to end some time. Today, it was Rob Key who cut the music and raised the lights on Lancashire’s T20 Blast victory celebrations with a hundred for Kent on day one of their LV County Championship Division Two fixture against Lancashire at Canterbury. A fifty from Joe Denly ushered the revellers out of the door.
Key’s century was his first in 41 Championship innings, a barren patch stretching back to the beginning of May 2014 and his 126, here, versus Surrey.
The Kent club-captain (a seemingly honorary role now that Sam Northeast has taken over on-field duties) was busy throughout, exploiting gaps in the field with intelligent pushes and prods, running hard and ensuring he capitalised on any loose deliveries from Lancashire’s tired-looking bowlers with a selection of sweetly-timed classical shots.
Bringing up his hundred with a push down the ground, into the no-man’s land behind the bowler Glenn Chapple, that allowed Key to run four was an appropriate way for veteran to reach the landmark in an innings characterised by its unfussy industriousness.
Denly, Key’s junior colleague in a partnership of 149 runs was less interested in steady accumulation, reaching his seventh fifty of the campaign in 79 deliveries, of which eight were dispatched along the ground to the boundary.
Two late wickets in a single over for Jordan Clark following an interruption for bad-light provided something of a consolatory goodie-bag for Lancashire to take back to their hotel.
Denly, who had become somewhat bogged down after reaching his half-century, was trapped in front for 65 off 106 balls and was followed back to the pavilion five balls later by Key who, on 113, edged a rising delivery to Karl Brown in the gully. It was left to night watchman James Tredwell and Sam Northeast to see out the remaining four overs, with Kent finishing on 235-3.
Lancashire had started the day needing five points to secure promotion to Division One of the Championship. After winning the toss and asking Kent to bat under leaden skies, skipper Steven Croft would have been hoping to bag three of them on day one in the form of bowling bonus points by running through a Kent batting line up that has proven flimsy this season.
As it turned out, the ball did little though the air and a benign pitch offered scarce seam movement for the Lancashire bowlers. Opening the bowling from the Pavillion End, Glenn Chapple did manage to find Key’s outside edge in the 9th over, only to see a simple chance spilled by Alviro Petersen at first slip. With Key on four at the time, it proved a costly drop.
At the other end, Toby Lester, playing in only his second Championship match, displayed decent pace, but struggled with accuracy, too often sending the ball down the leg-side. Key’s opening partner, Daniel Bell-Drummond took full advantage, demonstrating exquisite timing in clipping the ball off his hip.
The Kent openers’ scoring opportunities were reduced by the introduction of Tom Bailey and Clark into the attack. The pair identified that just short-of-a-length on or around off-stump was the best place to pitch the ball on this sluggish deck.
Unable to free his arms and frustrated by a period of nine overs that brought Kent just eight runs, Bell-Drummond appeared to lose concentration when in the 29th over of the day he played back to a fuller delivery from Bailey that pinned him in front. Umpire Neil Bainton had little hesitation in answering the bowler’s appeal in the affirmative and sending Bell-Drummond on his way for 37 with the Kent total on 72.
Denly very nearly followed next ball, as, with feet-rooted to the spot, he got an inside edge that bypassed Alex Davies behind the stumps and flew to the boundary. Thereafter, however, and until Clark’s flurry at the end of the day, it was plain sailing for Denly and Key.
Lancashire’s bowlers were generous in offering regular loose deliveries, which were gratefully received by the Kent pair. In the 17.3 overs between tea and the late interruption when the floodlights took over from the sun, Denly and Key put on 85 runs, punishing the errant Lancashire seamers.
So, only one point closer to promotion for Lancashire at the end of day one and the Twenty20 champions may have to wait a little longer than they had hoped for their next party.