It was another close game - but this time Sussex were on the wrong end of a tight contest as they lost by 58 runs at Canterbury.
New Zealand’s Matt Henry was awarded ‘Man of Kent’ status by appreciative home fans after starring with bat and ball during his side’s second-division win over Sussex in Canterbury.
The 26-year-old from Christchurch top-scored with a belligerent 55 in Kent’s second innings and then picked up the ball to claim six for 53 and 10 in the match to help dismiss neighbours Sussex for 211 and clinch a third successive victory with a day to spare.
Sussex head coach Jason Gillespie said his side would dust themselves off and move on: “We spoke earlier in the day about when lower order players come in and start playing big shots because we had a similar situation in our last game. On that occasion we changed our game and our plans and we paid for that.
“Coming into this game we reaffirmed that if a delivery is good enough for a top order player then it’s certainly good enough for a tail-ender, so I thought we did well to stick to the game plan today. The opposition are allowed to play well after all, but with Henry today it was play and miss, play and miss, smack a four. He played with a positive mindset, chanced his arm and got away with it.”
Gillespie added: “The 74-run partnership [between Henry and Harry Podmore] was vital when we’ve finally gone down by 58 runs overall. Yes, it’s easy to point to Henry’s knock as the reason, but if you look at the game overall we had opportunities where we could have been more effective with both bat and ball.
“We’ll move on from here and learn important lessons. The sun will rise in the morning and we’ll start preparing for the next block of white ball cricket.”
Needing 270 for victory after finally dismissing Kent for 235 second time around, Sussex lost four wickets in the mid-session and the remainder in the third day’s final session at Kent banked 20 points to Sussex’s three.
The Kiwi, who spent much of the winter on the periphery of the Black Caps Test squad, had Phil Salt caught on the drive at mid-off and then went around the wicket to pluck out the off stump of left-hander Luke Wells with a full-length off-cutter – for the 200th first-class dismissal of his career.
Stiaan van Zyl (38) mounted a partial recovery before he feathered an Ivan Thomas lifter through to the keeper then Harry Finch steered one from Calum Haggett to second slip.
After tea, Luke Wright’s firm drive was caught ankle high in his follow through by Thomas, then Henry switched to the Pavilion End to bowl Michael Burgess through the gate as he pushed off the back foot without moving his feet.
Despite the absence of Grant Stewart from their attack with a hamstring strain, Kent marched on as Harry Podmore trapped Ollie Robinson leg before, then, just two short of a patient half-century, Ben Brown went in the same manner to Henry’s full-length away swinger.
Henry bagged his third five-wicket return in Kent colours by skittling Danny Briggs and polished the game off by uprooting the off stump of Ishant Sharma and move Kent up to second in the table.
For good measure. Henry extended his leadership at the top of the national bowling averages after taking his tally to 37 victims in four starts at the miserly average of 9.59 apiece.
Earlier, the hosts, resuming on their overnight score of 125 for four and with an overall lead of 159, were bailed out by a counter-attacking 50 from Black Caps strike bowler Henry.
The hosts added only eight to their tally when Ishant Sharma struck to remove Zak Crawley, caught at short mid-wicket off a looping bat-pad chance.
Seven runs on, Ishant struck again, when Adam Rouse’s full-blooded drive flew toward gulley where Salt flung himself to his right to pull off an athletic, one-handed catch.
Having been dropped off a regulation chance to the keeper two deliveries earlier, Haggett glanced a leg-side delivery from Robinson to Brown, the relieved keeper.
Ishant gave way after a five-over spell of two for 15, to be replaced at the Nackington Road End by David Wiese, but Kent took their lead beyond 200 when Henry smashed a brace of boundaries off the South African’s second over.
Henry plundered sixes off Wiese and Van Zyl to raise a 50 stand with Podmore on the way to his fourth-first-class career 50, scored off 47 balls and with five fours and three sixes.
He and Podmore added 74 in 16.4 overs for the eighth wicket before Henry’s edged a leg-side heave against Robinson to slip. Stewart, batting with a runner, had off stump plucked out by Robinson and last man Thomas suffered a similar fate as Kent finally succumbed for 235 just after the designated 1.10pm lunch interval.
Ishant and Robinson claimed four wickets apiece, while Wiese picked up two but Kent had been allowed to wriggle off the hook.