Billings shows fight­ing spirit to help sal­vage draw

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Sport -

Matt Walker was full of praise af­ter Sam Billings re­turned from the mi­graine which had laid him low for two days to defy Durham in their Spec­savers County Cham­pi­onship draw at Ch­ester-le-Street. Set a near-im­pos­si­ble tar­get of 371 in 56 overs to claim an un­likely vic­tory, there were 28 overs left when Billings went in on the fi­nal af­ter­noon with his side reel­ing on 74-5. But while four more wick­ets fell, he re­mained un­beaten on 70 as Kent es­caped against Durham to emerge with a draw for the sec­ond time this sea­son. How­ever, Kent’s fail­ure to win in a week where ri­vals Worces­ter­shire in­flicted a first de­feat on lead­ers Notts did dent their hopes of a re­turn to the top flight. There were six overs left when Gra­ham Onions pinned Adam Milne leg be­fore to break the record of 518 first-class wick­ets for Durham. That brought in Im­ran Qayyum but he was well pro­tected by Billings and faced only two balls be­fore edg­ing the first ball of the penul­ti­mate over to Paul Colling­wood at first slip off James Weighell. Last-man Mitch Clay­don, on his 100th first class ap­pear­ance, who de­fied his former team-mates when Kent also hung on with nine wick­ets at Can­ter­bury, sur­vived the over and Billings then kept out Onions. Kent closed on 184-9, leav­ing Durham to rue their be­lated dec­la­ra­tion in a match which lost four ses­sions to the weather. Kent coach Walker ad­mit­ted: “We were sur­prised they bat­ted on af­ter lunch (on the fi­nal day). “We thought 300 was enough on a pitch which had enough in it for a qual­ity bowl­ing at­tack. I thought they would have wanted 65 overs but it nearly worked for them. “In terms of the sit­u­a­tion and the way he has been feel­ing for the pre­vi­ous two days, that’s as well as I’ve seen Sam Billings play in four-day cricket. “He didn’t feel right af­ter day one and still wasn’t 100% on the last day but he showed great char­ac­ter and skill. To see us home was an ex­cel­lent ef­fort.” Skip­per Sam North­east fol­lowed his 110 in Kent’s first in­nings to­tal of 206 by mak­ing 67 sec­ond time around. Kent had lost open­ers Sean Dick­son and Daniel Bel­lDrum­mond with­out a run on the board but North­east pro­gressed to a 69-ball half­cen­tury by the time Billings joined him. Af­ter a rain-hit start to the match, Kent re­duced the hosts to 77-7 in their first in­nings only for James Weighell (55) and Mark Wood (72 not out) to put on 106 for the eighth wicket to guide their side to 217 all-out. Milne took 4-68 with Clay­don 5-45 against his pre­vi­ous club. North­east’s su­perb ton was the lone re­sis­tance as Kent toiled in re­ply, the 26 mus­tered by Bell-Drum­mond and Zak Craw­ley was the sec­ond largest con­tri­bu­tion, with Billings de­part­ing for a duck, bowled by Onions bat­ting at nine af­ter be­ing stricken by the mi­graine. It also pre­vented him tak­ing the field, with Bell-Drum­mond and Denly tak­ing the gloves as Kent al­lowed a good start, re­duc­ing Durham to 39-2, to slip. A big stand of 180 be­tween former Kent man Tom Latham and Gra­ham Clark (86) took the game out of Kent’s reach. Latham com­pleted his sec­ond century in three games for Durham on the fi­nal morn­ing af­ter be­ing dropped by Denly off the luck­less Milne on 65. Kent were due to start a cham­pi­onship game at Glouces­ter­shire yes­ter­day (Tues­day, 10.30am).

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