It was another ‘Sunday Funday’ for Joe Denly, as he put Gloucestershire to the sword for the second consecutive week to move Kent into a strong position after two days in Bristol.
The stand-in captain, who scored a century against the same opponents this time last week in the One Day Cup, continued his excellent run of form as the Gloucestershire bowlers rarely troubled him on his way to a 25thfirst-class ton.
He was joined for much of his innings by veteran Darren Stevens as the pair added 161 for the fifth wicket, Kent eventually declaring on 582-9.
In reply Gloucestershire lost three wickets with just five runs on the board, but despite a small recovery to 37-3 lost James Bracey just before the close, to end the day on 44-4 still trailing by 538 runs. Jack Taylor there not out 24.
Resuming on 297-4, Denly along with Stevens quickly set about punishing some rather poor bowling from Gloucestershire’s opening pair of Craig Miles and Ryan Higgins. A four through mid-wicket by Denly from the just the third ball of the day, a sign of things to come as 52 runs were added in just nine overs.
The pair were particularly impressive on the front foot driving some over pitched Gloucestershire bowling, Denly passing fifty with relative ease in the process.
The introduction of spinner George Drissell did at least provide some respite for the hosts in terms of runs, but the Kent batsmen spent most of the morning session comfortably moving along their merry way. Stevens was the more aggressive of the pair, going to fifty with his tenth fourth.
Denly at the other end was no passenger though, cutting Kieran Noema-Barnett away for a boundary in the New Zealander’s first over. By this point it was clear Gloucestershire’s bowling attack was struggling after well over a day toiling in the field, something that both batsmen were clearly looking to exploit.
Stevens hit the first six of the day lofting Graeme Van Buuren over mid-off before Denly moved to his first Championship century of the season from 174 balls, one in all honesty he never looked like missing out on.
His partner Stevens was looking good for a hundred of his own but he was adjudged lbw to Noema-Barnett for 89 just before lunch, as Gloucestershire finally took their first wicket of the day. Though one wicket was scant reward for what had been a pretty tough morning in the field.
The hosts would have been relieved when the lunch break finally came at 449-5, and the interval seemed to do the trick for Miles who bowled much better than in his first spell of the day, getting centurion Denly to feather behind to Gareth Roderick for 107.
They may have hoped that wicket would open the floodgates but the visitors belligerently batted on, Rouse and Podmore going watchfully about their business as Kent added just 36 runs in a rather dull first hour after lunch, a period of play you would not want to show to anyone watching cricket for the first time.
A six by Harry Podmore off George Drissell signalled a change towards a more attacking intent from Kent, but there was no recklessness from either Adam Rouse or Podmore, as it was now apparent the plan was to bat once and try and put the game beyond their opponents.
Their fifty partnership came up in just over fifteen overs, the highlight of which was a delightful reverse-sweep from Rouse to the rope.
Sensing the incoming onslaught Chris Dent packed the boundary with fielders, which did slow down the batsmen after the initial flow of runs. He couldn’t prevent Rouse and Podmore each reaching fifty, however, the latter only his second in first-class cricket.
The ball after Podmore had reached his milestone, Rouse edged van Buuren to Roderick for a well-constructed 55.
The spinner had another in his next over, bowling Podmore with one that turned and crashed into the off-stump, his third of the innings. Though the former Middlesex man had already helped his team pass their highest score against Gloucestershire in Bristol.
At 566-8 at Tea, the presumption would have been for a declaration.
There was no such news, and out came the Kent batsmen, for what was one of the more extraordinary periods of cricket I have seen.
With the third new ball, Craig Miles was deposited into the car park for consecutive sixes from the very first two balls of the session by Matt Henry. The Kiwi then hit a four before trying another big hit, but only succeeding in sending the ball straight up in the air for Roderick to catch. Kent then declared just four balls into the evening session.
A quite ridiculous five minutes of action, that at least gave the Bristol crowd some entertainment on what had been a pretty drab day of cricket thus far.
Benny Howell and Dent had the task of trying to chase down Kent’s mammoth 582-9, and they almost got off to the worst possible start just two balls into their innings. Howell edged to second slip but, luckily for him, was dropped by Heino Kuhn much to bowler Henry’s annoyance.
He would be not be so lucky in the next over, though, an inside edge crashing into his off-stump to continue Stevens’ good day with the score 1-1.
His opening partner Dent fell to Stevens just a few overs later, the Gloucestershire captain with a complete misjudgement and being bowled trying to leave ball. The Kent bowler showed the bit of the quality his opponents did not possess, with Liam Norwell and David Payne still missing through injury.
If the Gloucestershire fans in attendance thought things could not get any worse, they did. Roderick was the third wicket to go down, Henry doing the damage this time, having the wicket-keeper caught by Adam Riley at gully with the score on 5-3.
Henry and Stevens were relentless, plugging away at a line and length that was almost impossible to score from, a boundary finally coming from the bat of James Bracey down towards fine leg to take his team to double figures.
Jack Taylor was Bracey’s new partner and, with the close still a long way off, the two had a tricky period on their hands. Taylor defended well for fifteen balls without scoring, but broke the shackles hitting Henry to the fence.
The introduction of Ivan Thomas did provide some opportunities for the Gloucestershire batsmen to increase the run rate, Taylor dispatching him for consecutive boundaries in his second over.
Just as it looked the pair would see their side to the close of play, Podmore induced an edge from the bat of Bracey and the ball flew into the hands of Zak Crawley at slip, with Gloucestershire staring down the barrel of a second successive home Championship defeat in 2018.