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Kent 387 and 112 (49.1 overs)
Essex 298 and 202/8 (69.3 overs)
Kent won the toss and elected to bat
Essex won by two wickets
Essex got their Bob Willis Trophy campaign underway with a remarkable two-wicket victory over old adversaries Kent in what was a highly dramatic topsy-turvy encounter at The Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford.
Initially, an Essex victory looked a million miles away. Heino Kuhn had provided Kent with a sizable first-innings platform, hitting 140 during a 343-minute stint at the crease. The South African was ably complemented by Ollie Robinson, who followed up a century against Essex at Canterbury the previous week with a further 78 in an altogether more competitive outing. Jamie Porter took 4/107 as the Essex attack underwent a tough examination.
Seasoned campaigner, Ryan Ten Doeschate scored 78, while Nick Browne chipped in with 61 and Varun Chopra 41, helping the home side claw into Kent’s sizable first innings total of 387. However, a flurry of wickets saw Essex lose their last four batsmen for just eighteen runs, leaving them 89 in arrears – Matthew Milnes leading the way with 4/46 and Marcus O’Riordan, 3/71.
Incredibly, the Essex attack made short work of the visitors’ second spell in the middle. Harmer led the way with 4/35, while Cook took his match figures to 5/89 as Kent were skittled for just 112.
Jordan Cox top-scored with just 29, but the visitors’ initial grip on the contest had been drastically loosened. Nightwatchman Porter and opening bat Browne negotiated the final over of the day, sending Essex into the final day needing 202 to record a remarkable victory.
Nevertheless, the visitors’ kept the tension on a knife-edge, with Grant Stewart claiming three wickets in the first session of the day as Essex somewhat floundered.
A cool head was required – Alastair Cook appeared to have provided it. Paired with impressive first-class debutant, Feroze Khushi, the subtle blend of youth and experience put together a fifth-wicket stand of 86 before the one-time England skipper was trapped lbw by Matt Thomas for 66.
The pendulum was to swing again. Khushi followed fifteen balls later, five short of his half-century – Thomas, enjoying a purple patch, again the perpetrator ahead of claiming ten Doeschate and Harmer off successive deliveries, leaving Essex back in trouble.
In a nervy finale, wicketkeeper/batsman, Adam Wheater and birthday boy, Sam Cook cobbled together a ninth-wicket stand of 31 – Cook scurrying through as the home side claimed an exciting victory.
Essex returns to Bob Willis Trophy action on Saturday, August 8/11 (11am) when Surrey are the visitors to The Cloudfm County Ground.
Essex: Nick Browne, Alastair Cook, Tom Westley (Capt), Varun Chopra, Feroze Khushi, Ryan ten Deschate, Adam Wheater (WK), Simon Harmer, Sam Cook, Jamie Porter, Matt Quinn
Kent: Daniel Bell-Drummond (Capt), Jordan Cox, Jack Leaning, Ollie Robinson (WK), Heino Kuhn, Darren Stevens, Grant Stewart, Marcus O’Riordan, Matt Milnes, Hamidullah Qadri, Matt Thomas
Officials: Neil Bainton and Benjamin Debenham