By Charles Gill
Five evening session wickets in this delicately poised LV=CC game tilted it in Leicestershire’s favour after being dismissed for 217 earlier in the day.
Kent finished the day on 106-5 with all of Leicestershire’s bowlers contributing in a final session that saw five wickets taken for just 80 runs.
Leicestershire’s day started well despite being put in with Greg Smith and top-scorer Angus Robson (56, 80b) both hitting early boundaries and accelerating the total to 46 before the first wicket fell.
After having a promising LBW shout turned down from the first ball of the day, Mitchell Claydon (21-6-77-5) eventually dismissed Smith (16, 30b), who nicked and was brilliantly caught by a diving Sam Billings behind the stumps.
The Claydon-Billings combination struck again six runs later when Ned Eckersley (5, 14b) edged a terrific ball through to the keeper having edged the previous ball for four.
Daniel Bell-Drummond produced the ‘champagne moment’ of the day to send Dan Redfern on his way to the pavilion. Redfern (9, 16b) tried flicking a ball from Darren Stevens (11-1-41-1) over mid-wicket, only to be thwarted by a leaping one-handed effort from the young opener.
Josh Cobb (9, 18b), captaining in the absence of the injured Ramnaresh Sarwan, was Claydon’s third victim as he fended a ball outside off stump to Stevens at first slip.
In the midst of the falling wickets, Robson stood tall and looked in good form as he punished several full deliveries from debutant Charlie Hartley (10-3-40-2). The opener reached his eighth 50 of the season in just 58 balls with 10 boundaries.
Claydon dismissed Leicestershire’s in-form batsman in the morning session just before lunch as Robson gloved a bouncer through to Billings, leaving his side 125-5 when lunch was called.
Rob Taylor hit the first ball of the afternoon session for four and hoped to have set the tone, especially as off-spinner Adam Riley (9-1-35-1) started dropping the ball short early on in his spell.
However, Claydon trapped Niall O’Brien (27, 35b) leg before shortly after the restart for 26 to claim his second five-wicket haul of the season.
When Ben Raine (8, 12b) played all round a straight ball from Riley for eight leaving his team on 152-7, the batting points on the horizon seemed to be flying away rather quickly.
Taylor and Jigar Naik offered some resistance as the put on 54 for the eighth wicket partnership, an innings best, and Naik drove Adam Ball (4-0-22-1) to the boundary for four to pass 200 and claim a batting point.
Ball accounted for Taylor for 37 (65b) with a wicked yorker that took out his off stump, and then Naik went next ball for 25 (47b) to Hartley, giving the 20-year-old his maiden first-class wicket.
Charlie Shreck (9*) swung the willow briefly but effectively against Ball but Hartley claimed his second wicket when he found Nathan Buck’s edge. Riley took a very sharp catch at second slip to complete the innings.
Kent started the innings solidly before their former bowler Shreck (12-3-31-2) dismissed his old captain Rob Key with a short ball that he could only splice to Redfern at mid-wicket for 10.
Bell-Drummond lived an exciting life before he was trapped lbw for 10 by Raine (6-3-11-1). He was struck in the box by Raine, broke his bat when driving Buck (12-3-30-1) and survived a very close shout for lbw.
Taylor (5-3-17-1) entered the fray and in his third over had Ben Harmison leg before wicket for 20 with a ball that looked to be crashing into leg stump, and umpire Peter Hartley agreed.
Sam Northeast joined Brendan Nash at the crease with 15 overs remaining of the day’s play, and both were dismissed within two balls of each other.
The last ball of the 32nd over saw Nash try to cut a ball from Buck that was too close to him and he played onto his stumps for 21, and the first ball of Shreck’s new spell brought a fantastic diving catch from Smith at second slip to send Northeast back to the pavilion.
Stevens and Ball managed the reach the close of play with their wickets still intact, on 9 and 1 respectively, despite huge pressure from Shreck and Buck and the surrounding fielders.