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Recent Match Report – Warwickshire vs Kent, County Championship Division One, 2nd Innings

Warwickshire 346 (Sibley 132, Milnes 3-50) and 79 for 4 trail Kent 504-9 dec by 79 runs

Warwickshire face a fight to save their opening Championship game of the season despite Dominic Sibley continuing his fine form. Sibley made his fifth century in five successive first-class games to keep his side in the match but, with none of his colleagues able to reach 50 – only two other men in the top nine reached 20 – Warwickshire conceded a first-innings deficit of 159 and were forced to follow-on.

By the close, they had lost four second-innings wickets, including Sibley for 5, and still required 79 more runs to make Kent back again. Without the lower-order allrounders who used to bolster them – the likes of Keith Barker, Rikki Clarke and Chris Wright, who were all allowed to leave – or the injured Ian Bell, their batting looks just a little brittle. You wonder whether Chris Woakes, who will play for Warwickshire’s 2nd XI in a limited-overs game in the next few days, might have played as a specialist batsman.

That all means that Kent are closing in on their first victory in the top division of the County Championship since September 2010. As a coincidence, their coach at the time was Paul Farbrace, who is the new director of cricket at Edgbaston. Darren Stevens is the only member of this Kent team who played in that match.

Given how newly promoted sides have struggled to stay in Division One in recent seasons – last season, Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire both finished in the bottom three – this could prove a crucial game. These two are fresh from Division Two, after all, with many people suggesting Kent may struggle.

But their excellent first-innings batting has given them a strong foundation in this match. And with their bowlers reacting well to the challenge of staying in the field for five sessions in succession so far – they bowled 120 overs in Warwickshire’s first innings before enforcing the follow-on – they have an excellent chance to secure an important win. But for a memorable fightback from Somerset last week, it could easily have been two wins from two.

If they do go on to win, they will owe a great deal to Zak Crawley. Having made a match-defining century in the first innings, he also held on to a succession of outstanding catches in the slip cordon – not least the brilliant, diving effort to end Sibley’s second innings – to ensure his bowlers’ work was not wasted. He really does look an outstanding prospect.

Much the same could be said about Sibley. While his team-mates prodded and pushed at the moving ball, he played admirably straight, left well and was not seduced into any of the hard-handed strokes that were to prove their undoing. He is patient and he is disciplined, but he also had a wide array of strokes with the on-drive that brought up his century a particular highlight. The only time he looked troubled in this innings was as he approached his century and he may well have been a little unfortunate to be adjudged leg before for 132.

Sibley’s partnership with Tim Ambrose, who passed 11,000 runs during the day, gave Warwickshire hope. The pair added 87 in 30 overs and, with Kent’s attack tiring – Daniel Bell-Drummond, with four first-class wickets from 100 matches, took the second new ball – it seemed Warwickshire would creep past the follow-on mark. But Ambrose’s dismissal, shuffling in front of one from Stevens, opened the floodgates to a collapse that saw five wickets fall for the addition of just 32 runs.

The impressive Harry Podmore broke the back of their resistance with a spell three wickets for six runs in 11 balls including Sibley. By the time the last pair – Jeetan Patel and Ryan Sidebottom – came together, Warwickshire required 82 to avoid being sent back in.

They almost did it, too. With Patel leading the way in typically aggressive fashion, the 10th-wicket pair took advantage of some fielding lapses – Patel should have been stumped, Sidebottom should have been caught – to add 73, before Patel was caught at mid-off as he attempted to thrash one back over Stevens’ head.

Podmore soon made inroads in Warwickshire’s second innings, too. Will Rhodes was trapped in front by one that swung back to take advantage of him over-balancing to the off-side, before Liam Banks was well caught as he edged a somewhat unnecessary forcing stroke and Sibley, perhaps wearied by his exertions, was drawn into a drive at a wide ball that he admitted he would have left in his first innings. Adam Hose edged a good one that left him a little off the pitch, though he could have left it.

“The start of last season was a disaster for me,” Sibley said afterwards. “I was really struggling and things couldn’t have got much worse. But I’ve worked hard and I’ve changed my trigger movement. It’s great to get hundreds rather than fifties or sixties. I know there are places [available] there [in the England side] but I’m just concentrating on scoring runs for Warwickshire.

“It’s disappointing to lose four wickets in the last session today, but this game hasn’t gone. Hopefully we can go past them and put them under a bit of pressure.”


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