Report & Reaction: Hampshire v Kent, LV= CC

Read the match report & reaction from our final home LV= Insurance County Championship match against Kent at The Ageas Bowl

Day Three

Hampshire’s dream of winning the LV= Insurance County Championship title for the first time in 49 years was ended by a 77-run defeat to Kent.

Joe Weatherley, James Vince and James Fuller – 56, 73 and 78 not out respectively – had given the south coast county hope of an unlikely chase of 378.

But Hampshire’s hopes of replicating the 1961 and 1973’s champions were dashed to give Surrey the pennant for the second time in five seasons – with Nathan Gilchrist taking four for 60, including the winning wicket.

It was Hampshire’s third defeat of the season, and Kent’s third victory.

For Kent, their relegation worries still loom large, as they go into the last round, where they face Somerset, in danger of being sucked into Division Two despite taking 19 points from the Ageas Bowl. If Warwickshire beat Gloucestershire, they will move into the bottom two, two points adrift. If Warwickshire lose to Gloucestershire, they will be 14 points clear.

Joe Weatherley had been the shining light of that period with his first score above 25 since April. He had ended the day on 54, having left and defended well, while also finding ways to score.

The morning only brought two runs in a six-over stay before a full Nathan Gilchrist delivery thudded into his shin. Gilchrist’s following over saw the end of the unbalanced Ben Brown, who clipped a similarly full ball to square leg.

Conor McKerr had been sent on loan from Surrey for this fixture, but hadn’t personally helped his parent county with one and a duck with the bat, and no chance to bowl in the first innings. His celebration was perhaps the loudest of the day when he pinned Aneurin Donald in front.

Vince wasn’t allowing Kent to ease to victory though, as he demonstrated his trademarked mix of dogged determinism to win the game for his team and beautiful shot-making. His first three scoring shots were variations on a cover drive, including the first ball of the day.

He moved to his sixth half-century of the season off 81 balls with a dabbed three down to third, to take the required runs down to 169 runs at lunch.

But only 27 more runs were knocked off before a turning half-tracker from Jack Leaning lit up Vince’s eyes, and his pull shot fell straight into Tawanda Muyeye’s grasp on the deep midwicket boundary.

It ended a 90-run stand with Fuller which had almost made Hampshire surprise favourites.

Kyle Abbott was undone by bounce out of the footholds by Leaning to loop to first slip. And despite Fuller racing past a 74 ball fifty and biffing some late runs, Mohammad Abbas had his off stump knocked over by Gilchrist.

The defeat is Hampshire’s first at home in the Championship since losing to Somerset last May – a run of 10 victories – and just their second since the start of the 2019 season.

Day Two

Jack Leaning celebrated his second century of the season to boost Kent’s hopes of avoiding relegation from LV= Insurance County Championship Division One as they set title-chasing Hampshire 378 runs to win.

Stand-in captain Leaning struck 112 as the pitch became more conducive to batting, following 23 wickets falling on a fast-forward opening day, as Kent totted up 269 runs.

It meant Hampshire, who had seen Mohammad Abbas claim four for 68, required the fifth highest chase in their history to keep themselves in the title race – with Surrey highly likely to pick up a win and six bonus points.

Joe Weatherley was exceptional for his unbeaten 54 but Hampshire lost openers Felix Organ and Ian Holland plus night watcher Keith Barker and Nick Gubbins while knocking 105 off the required total in 35 overs - with 273 runs still required to victory.

Having taken three evening wickets – albeit two were night watchers and the light had dimmed – Hampshire were optimistic they could blast the remaining seven Kent batters, have a modest target to chase and reignite their title tilt.

They were in for another chastening day, as the pitch somewhat flattened out and their visitors took advantage.

Tawanda Muyeye and Daniel Bell-Drummond came out with a game plan to attack with the pair driving with glamourous abandon, the pair putting on a carefree 35. Muyeye gained a life on 34 when dropped at third slip but failed to use it when leg before to Kyle Abbott in the following over.

Bell-Drummond continued on his way to 40, with all but six of the runs coming in boundaries, with 51 added with Leaning before he was bowled playing around James Fuller. Ollie Robinson also fell before lunch edging a slog to first slip.

The afternoon saw Leaning come into his own. He set up outside of his crease and then lurched further forward to try and get to the ball before it significantly moved.

His hypothesis worked as he comfortably collected runs, most often guiding to third. His fifty came in that region, although through an edge between wicketkeeper and slip, in 89 balls.

Leaning is on course to average above 40 in his first two full seasons at Kent, since moving from Yorkshire, but last season his failure to convert blackened his 745 a tad. He turned a fifty to a century just once in seven attempts in 2021.

He has almost matched his overall tally from last year, up to 714 after this innings, and has now scored two centuries – this being in much trickier conditions than his 128 against Gloucestershire at home.

The right-hander reached his eighth first-class century by advancing and dispatching a six over midwicket. He had batted through over an hour after lunch with Harry Finch for 78 before the latter was lbw to Abbott.

From there wickets fell more regularly as Leaning scored all but one run off the bat in stands of 17 and 21 with Joey Evison and Nathan Gilchrist. Evison was caught behind, Leaning upper-cutting to deep point and Gilchrist picking out long on to end the innings.

Only Hampshire sides in 1983, 1985, 1990 and 2006 had scored greater than 378 runs to win a match. Chances of replicating those performances got off to a hitch when Holland was leg before to Matt Quinn in the fourth over.

Organ and Weatherley bravely copped knocks on the hand during a ferocious Conor McKerr over with the homegrown duo putting on 68.

But after back-to-back boundaries, Organ edged Harry Podmore behind. He left the middle banging his bat against his helmet in frustration before Barker starved off 17 deliveries and then looped a bouncer to midwicket. Quinn picked up his eighth wicket of the match as Gubbins left a delivery that nipped back into his off stump.

The smattering of wickets meant Weatherley shyly celebrated his 94-ball half-century - his first since April.

Day One

Hampshire were bowled out for 57 against Kent in the first innings of their final home match of the 2022 LV= Insurance County Championship season, with Matt Quinn claiming six for 23.

Hampshire’s fast bowling trident of Mohammad Abbas, Kyle Abbott and Keith Barker had all combined to see off Kent for 165 on a green pitch which offered some, but not excessive, movement – but still conceded a 108-run first-innings deficit.

Kent reached 20 for three at close in their second innings as Hampshire, who started the round eight points adrift of leaders Surrey, began to rebuild in the second innings.

James Vince had chosen to stick Kent in and had them 32 for five before Ben Compton had ground 63 off 161 balls, to provide a backbone in tricky circumstances.

Hampshire then came to the crease but started to lose wickets rapidly.

Felix Organ was caught at second slip in the fifth over, Joe Weatherley chopped onto his own stumps and Nick Gubbins followed one that angled across him behind.

Quinn then picked up the wickets of Vince and top scorer with 19, Ian Holland, in the same over – the former caught off the inside edge and the latter pushing to first slip.

Ben Brown was bowled by Nathan Gilchrist, before the last four wickets fell for just three runs.

To go with Quinn's six-for, Gilchrist and Harry Podmore both posted two-fors.

Earlier, a Kent side shorn of Sam Billings, Jordan Cox, Matt Milnes, Grant Stewart, Zak Crawley and Joe Denly for all manner of injury, international and paternity reasons, battled to what appeared a below-par 165.

Tawanda Muyeye lasted only five balls into the match when he was leg before to Barker and it took Abbas just as long to take a wicket at the other end as Daniel Bell-Drummond edged behind to Aneurin Donald – who continued to take the gloves despite Brown’s return to the XI.

Jack Leaning stemmed the wicket-taking with a turgid eight off 57 balls but was bowled by Abbott attempting to work the ball into the leg side.

It began a spell of aggressive bowling by the South African fast bowler - backed up by Holland bowling six straight maidens at the other end - which saw Ollie Robinson play on and Harry Finch lbw in consecutive balls.

Amongst the tumble was the unflinching Compton, who never knowingly played at a ball not hitting at his stumps in his 161-ball vigil. He had been in single figures for 36 balls and happily stuck on 18 for 36 dot balls as he got the ball soft.

Compton had started the season with three straight hundreds but had endured a demanding recent spell in which he had failed to reach double figures in his last six Championship innings.

He reached his first half-century since early June in 141 balls during strong partnerships of 68 and 45 with Royal London Cup final hero Joey Evison and Harry Podmore.

Hampshire’s attack chipped away and broke through at regular intervals thereafter with Abbott returning four for 46, Barker passing 50 wickets for the season with three for 30 and Abbas three for 29.

In Kent's second innings, Compton was caught at first slip and night watcher Conor McKerr caught behind, both to Abbas, and second night watcher Podmore was bowled by Holland. It meant 23 wickets had fallen on a dizzying day.

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