Compton century leads Kent rally against Essex

Matt Critchley warms his hands as Essex field against Kent

Matt Critchley warms his hands as Essex field against Kent - Credit: Nick Wood/TGS Photo

Ben Compton emerged from relative obscurity to underpin Kent’s understrength batting line-up with a maiden first-class century in England against Essex.

The South African-born grandson on Denis, and cousin of Nick, had a previous highest score in this country of just 20, for Nottinghamshire last season, but multiplied that by more than six with a patient 129 as Kent negated Essex’s mammoth first-innings 514.

With Zak Crawley, Jack Leaning, Sam Billings and George Linde all unavailable for this opening fixture – and Joe Denly nursing a hamstring injury – it was the 28-year-old debutant left-hander’s chance to stake a claim for a place at the top of the order.

Mark Steketee of Essex in bowling action against Kent

Mark Steketee of Essex in bowling action against Kent - Credit: Nick Wood/TGS Photo

He did not waste it on a flat wicket that gave no encouragement to bowlers and once Kent overhauled the follow-on target with only four wickets down, the draw became inevitable with a day to play despite Jordan Cox weighing in with the fifth century of the match. He was unbeaten on 100 at the close with Kent 405-5, just 109 in arrears.

Compton’s rise from the outposts of Zimbabwean cricket and London clubs to the LV= Insurance County Championship has been meteoric, despite his age: this was his fourth hundred in all formats since the turn of the year.

With a mixture of sound defence and occasional belligerence, he proved a veritable thorn in Essex’s attempt to capitalise on their batting performance.

Sam Cook of Essex prepares to bowl against Kent

Sam Cook of Essex prepares to bowl against Kent

He started the day in circumspection: he needed 15 deliveries to move off his overnight score, though a well-time pull off Shane Snater also took him to fifty. Tawanda Muyeye followed to his own fifty shortly after with a crisp drive through the covers.

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The second-wicket pair had put on 121 in 43 overs when Matt Critchley drew Muyeye forward, no shot being offered, to claim his maiden Essex wicket with the inevitable lbw.

Compton was particularly harsh on Dan Lawrence, who strayed down legside in his first over, and flicked two fours off his legs and added a third through midwicket from a full-toss to move swiftly through the 70s into the 80s.

Shane Snater of Essex in bowling action against Kent

Shane Snater of Essex in bowling action against Kent - Credit: Nick Wood/TGS Photo

He turned Critchley for the two that took him to three figures from 220 balls shortly after lunch but Compton’s marathon innings ended after a 90-over stay when beaten by a Sam Cook delivery that kept low and he couldn’t jab his bat down quickly enough.

He had faced 289 balls and hit 19 fours, but Cox was the more aggressive in the pair’s 123-run third-wicket stand, sending his innings into overdrive with three fours in two overs from Jamie Porter and generally pulling and driving with relish.

Critchley claimed a second wicket when Ollie Robinson was trapped in front, before Cox and Darren Stevens embarked on a cavalier 82-run partnership in 20 overs that scattered the field far and wide.

Jamie Porter of Essex in bowling action against Kent

Jamie Porter of Essex in bowling action against Kent

Stevens became the seventh player in the match to pass fifty, but two balls later he thick-edged Lawrence to Sir Alastair Cook at first slip.

All that was left was for Cox to scamper a quick single in the penultimate over of the day to reach the second hundred of his career.

Essex head coach Anthony McGrath said: “It’s a similar pitch to the one we had in the first game last season with Worcestershire. There’s not a lot in the pitch but we probably had the worst of the conditions really with it being a bit damp on day one, so to put 514 on the board, we were happy with that.

“We were hoping to create some chances but the pitch just got slower and slower and died really so towards the end, it was not really carrying through. The batters on both teams will be happy but it looks unlikely  now that there is going to be a result in the game.

“Matt Critchley is having an excellent debut for us: yesterday he batted really well and today, he’s bowled well. Even though we’ve had sun out today, it’s not spinning conditions especially for a wrist spinner with the fingers being cold.

"I thought his control and line and length on a benign pitch was really good and it was good for him to get a couple of wickets.”