Kent’s Australian international Wes Agar claimed the second five wicket haul of his first-class career to restrict Northamptonshire to a modest 237. It came despite Rob Keogh leading a spirited fightback for the hosts with a fine 97 on day one of this LV= Insurance County Championship match.
Tawanda Muyeye and Daniel Bell-Drummond (48) took the positive route in response, sharing a confident, attacking unbeaten partnership of 93 as Kent closed on 110 for one in 26 overs. The pair peppered the boundary, Muyeye smashing eight fours and a six, finishing 58 off 82 deliveries.
Keogh fell agonisingly short of a second consecutive century against Kent this season but did well to help his side recover after losing three early wickets to catches in the slip cordon. It created a sense of déjà vu for Northamptonshire fans after a number of similar batting collapses this season but Keogh’s half-century partnerships with Sam Whiteman (40) and Saif Zaib (26) started to swing the momentum back their way.
Agar though was finding prodigious swing with the Kookaburra ball, having already removed Whiteman and Ricardo Vasconcelos and he finally ended Keogh’s resistance after 147 balls (13 fours), the first of three wickets in 11 balls for the Australian, including a double wicket maiden. Tom Taylor (35) clubbed six boundaries before he became the third victim for Hamidullah Qadri.
Northamptonshire won the toss and elected to bat first on a used pitch in temperatures of 30 degrees. Agar was soon in the wickets column when he removed Vasconcelos without scoring in the fourth over. Left-arm quick Arshdeep Singh picked up Emilio Gay (15) nine balls later before accounting for skipper Luke Procter (7). All three had fallen to slip catches inside the first 11 overs.
The hosts’ fortunes soon started to improve through a fluent stand of 62 between Sam Whiteman (40) and Keogh.
Keogh took an unbeaten 116 off Kent in the opening game of the season and tucked into their bowling once more. He punched Matt Quinn square for four and greeted Qadri’s arrival with a similar shot before punching him through the covers when the spinner dropped short. He also cut powerfully to the ropes as Northamptonshire reached three figures before lunch.
Whiteman meantime drove Agar authoritatively down the ground for four and was particularly strong off his legs, steering Quinn behind square to the ropes. But with the safety of lunch just four balls away, he lost concentration and flashed at one outside of-stump from Agar with Leaning taking an excellent tumbling catch, his third of the morning, Northamptonshire going into the interval four wickets down.
After lunch Keogh found a new partner in Zaib and they put on 65 in 15 overs. Keogh continued to profit from the cut and backfoot punch, advancing to his half-century off 72 balls. When Arshdeep tested him with a well-directed bouncer he was happy to take that on too, hooking it comfortably for four.
Zaib became Qadri’s first wicket when he backed away and was bowled, attempting a cut. The spinner struck again in his next over when Lewis McManus played down the wrong line and popped a catch up to short leg.
Keogh survived an lbw shout from Agar and offered an edge which dropped short of the slips in the 90s. But although he reverse swept Qadri for four to move to 97, Agar got his man next over when he was trapped lbw.
Agar’s next over was a double wicket maiden as he bowled both Ben Sanderson and Jack White without scoring.
Taylor traded some lusty blows, pulling Quinn for four and carving Agar to the ropes, before punching two boundaries off Qadri. His bid to gain Northamptonshire a rare batting bonus though ended when he was caught off Qadri.
When Kent batted, Sanderson struck early to beat Ben Compton’s defences and hit the stumps.
Tawanda Muyeye looked assured, powerfully cutting a short ball from Sanderson for four and playing an exquisite cover drive off Taylor to the ropes. His timing was exemplary but he did play a rare false shot when he top edged an attempted hook, the ball falling just in front of the fielder.
He was soon finding the boundary again, punishing consecutive short balls from Taylor, swotting them disdainfully away to the ropes and smashing Keogh high over deep midwicket for six to bring up his half-century off 69 balls.
Bell-Drummond was timing the ball well too, punching White down the ground and carving him square before playing the same bowler through midwicket for four to bring up the fifty partnership with Muyeye off 93 balls.