Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - By An­drew Gi­d­ley

ROB KEY hailed Dar­ren Stevens’ hun­dred against Lan­cashire at Old Traf­ford last week as “his best in­nings for the county.”

Stevens hit 101 – his 14th first class hun­dred for Kent – off only 129 balls, in­clud­ing 10 fours and two sixes and shared an eighth-wicket stand of 92 with Matt Coles (33) to help avoid the fol­lowon with the side in dan­ger of suf­fer­ing their sec­ond in­nings de­feat in three cham­pi­onship matches so far this sea­son.

The weather even­tu­ally proved the only win­ner, with the match aban­doned in mid-af­ter­noon on the fi­nal day af­ter Kent had reached 45-2 hav­ing been set 285 to win. Lan­cashire de­clared in the morn­ing on their overnight 177-3 fol­low­ing a 90-minute de­lay due to rain.

A to­tal of 168 overs was lost to rain in the fi­nal two days, which dented Lan­cashire’s hopes of start­ing the sea­son with three suc­ces­sive wins for the first time in 15 years. Kent took seven points from the game but had one de­ducted due to a slow over rate

New over­seas re­cruit Makhaya Ntini, who only stepped off the plane from Cape Town on the eve of the game, made a quick im­pres­sion, claim­ing two early scalps in an eco­nom­i­cal re­turn of 3-46 off 22 overs and fol­lowed up with 2-31 in the sec­ond.

He was over­shad­owed, though, by fel­low South African Ash­well Prince. Dropped on 18 by Joe Denly in the first in­nings on his way to 115, Prince made an un­beaten 71 not out in the sec­ond, just missing out on be­com­ing the first home player to score a hun­dred in both in­nings since 1998.

Stevens sur­vived a “life” when he was 53 but skip­per Key said: “It was Dar­ren’s best knock for Kent by a long way. The one crit­i­cism you would have had of him in the past, is that when we have been re­ally strug­gling, he hasn’t al­ways got the runs.

“The 92 against York­shire and the hun­dred against Lan­cashire were tough runs and he is un­lucky not to have been picked for the World Twenty20 in the West Indies.

“Eng­land’s loss is our gain at the moment and af­ter his one-day in­nings of 55 off 20-odd balls (against War­wick­shire) you can’t tell me they don’t need some­body who can do that.”

Key added: “It’s been a tough start for us, with some of our key bowlers in­jured and play­ing on some re­ally sport­ing wick­ets.

“If we had caught our catches, we would have prob­a­bly been in a bet­ter po­si­tion. We are hang­ing in there but not as many of us are play­ing as well as we can do. Once that turns, we will be de­cent.

“The Old Traf­ford pitch was com­fort­ably the tough­est pitch I have had to bat on, not only for side­ways move­ment but up and down as well.

“Not many open­ers are get­ting runs around the coun­try and an early start to the sea­son and no heavy roller (be­tween in­nings) is hope­fully not a sign of things to come.”

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