Kent dominated most of the day at the Brightside Ground, Bristol to finish the day leading the hosts by 125.
The day belonged to Darren Stevens and Sam Billings who put on an unbeaten 205 for the fifth wicket to put their side into a dominant position when play closed early due to bad light and rain. Both Kent batsmen were not out at the close – Stevens on 121 and Billings 86. They totally dominated the home bowlers who lost confidence as the stand progressed after a morning when the ball dominated in much the way it had done yesterday.
Kent started their first innings this morning. They had the worst possible start when Sean Dickson, who signed a new long-term contract this week, was lbw in the first over to David Payne for a duck. Daniel Bell-Drummond and Joe Denly survived frequent plays and misses as the ball moved around until Liam Norwell, in an excellent opening spell, had Denly caught behind for 6 with Kent 28/2.
Batting looked as difficult a process as it had been yesterday on a pitch which gave the bowlers assistance with sideways movement and the batters little pace and bounce. Both Bell-Drummond and skipper Sam Northeast played and missed regularly and escaped unsuccessful appeals and near-miss catches. But the pair fought through to lunch, taken on 78/2 after 30 hostile and accurate overs from the home bowlers – Bell-Drummond on 37 and Northeast 32.
After lunch the game changed completely. Kent adopted a more positive approach and looked to up the scoring rate. Bell-Drummond brought up his 50, scored from 109 balls, with a lovely straight drive from Norwell. But at 126/3 Bell-Drummond’s stay ended when he edged to the ‘keeper from a classic left-arm over seamer’s delivery angled across him from Matt Taylor to be out for 65. Billings joined Northeast who soon reached 50, square driving Craig Miles for four. But quickly after he was Matt Taylor’s second scalp, caught at slip for 54 at 141/4. That was to be Gloucestershire’s last taste of success for the day.
Billings and Stevens then set about establishing complete control for the visitors. They profited from some generous four-balls as the home bowlers loosened their grip. The morning run-rate of just over two was more than doubled. Stevens smashed Miles for a maximum into the Ashley Down End flats. Billings reverse-swept Jack Taylor for four to move to a typically enterprising 55 ball 50 with 11 fours, and take Kent into the lead.
At tea Kent were on 239/4, Billings on 56 and Stevens on 49. That 161 were added in 32 overs since tea in a match where in the previous four sessions runs had come at two an over says much for the way the Kent batters had exploited some poor home bowling. The visitors were clearly in command.
In the first over after tea Stevens reached his 70 ball half-century. Runs came so easily as the home bowlers heads dropped further, so much so that Stevens reached his century with the second 50 coming in just 44 balls. It was the 40 year-old all rounder’s first century of the season and the 30th of his long career. He played with his normal punchy, aggressive style – his bat looking wider and deeper as his innings progressed. It is no wonder he would like to play on for another season.
As the new ball was taken and the 200 fifth wicket partnership landmark was reached the skies darkened and Kent went into the pavilion in the cheerful position of 346/4 with Stevens 121 and Billings 86. Gloucestershire would have pleased that rain followed the bad light and no more play was possible. It was a day they will wish to forget.