Cook shines as Essex retain top spot

Sam Cook returned a career-best seven for 23 as Kent were shot out for just 40 before Essex completed a remarkable three-wicket win in the Specsavers County Championship at Canterbury.

Essex conceded a 112-run first-innings deficit after they were bowled out themselves for 114 and the 19-point haul will retain their place at the top of the Division One table.

At the start of an astonishing third day in which 26 wickets fell, Essex lost nine wickets in the morning session for 82 runs to to put Kent into what appeared to be a strong position.

Harry Podmore bagged four for 34 for the hosts, while 43-year-old Darren Stevens – making his 300th first-class appearance – chipped in with three for 17 including the prized scalp of Sir Alastair Cook for 12.

However, Kent then conspired to be bowled out for 40 inside 18.1 overs.

Mohammad Amir bagged two for 16 for Essex but it was Sam Cook who shone brightest during a nine-over spell from the Pavilion End.

The 22-year-old seamer followed his first-innings tally of five for 42 with a superb seven for 23 to complete a best-ever match return of 12 for 65.

It was Kent’s lowest-ever total against Essex, beating their previous worst display of 43, mustered at Southend in 1925.

When Kent took the field hoping to defend a target of 153, Stevens soon raised home spirits by having Nick Browne caught in the cordon for his 497th first-class wicket.

After tea, Sir Alastair Cook fell for the second time in the day when he nicked Matt Milnes to second slip and the former Nottinghamshire paceman then trapped Dan Lawrence lbw and, at 51 for three, Essex were stuttering.

Ravi Bopara added to Stevens’ wicket haul when he feathered an away-swinger to the wicketkeeper and then Tom Westley shouldered arms to a Mitch Claydon in-ducker to lose his off stump.

Claydon enticed Ryan Ten Doeschate to follow one outside off to nibble another into the wicketkeeper’s gloves and, at 84 for six, Essex still required 69 for their eighth win of the campaign.

Experienced seventh-wicket partners Adam Wheater and Simon Harmer steadied the Essex ship with a crucial stand worth 57 that took Essex to within 12 runs of victory before Claydon sent Harmer packing with the 15th lbw decision of the game.

It was left to Wheater and Amir to finish the job off with eight overs of the day remaining.

Despite the loss of 102 overs to rain during the opening two days of the match, the game was done and dusted within 189 overs.