Kent frustrated by Warwickshire’s Bell

PUBLISHED: 18:30 22 June 2018 | UPDATED: 18:30 22 June 2018

Kent's Darren Stevens (left), coach Matt Walker, vice captain Joe Denly, coach Allan Donald and Will Gidman (right) prepare for a team picture (pic Gareth Fuller/PA)

Kent's Darren Stevens (left), coach Matt Walker, vice captain Joe Denly, coach Allan Donald and Will Gidman (right) prepare for a team picture (pic Gareth Fuller/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

England Test stalwart Ian Bell appears intent on inspiring a momentous Warwickshire run-chase at Tunbridge Wells after Kent set the visitors a mammoth victory target of 519 in a shade over five sessions.

In a topsy-turvy Specsavers County Championship match between the second division’s top two sides, Bell posted his third unbeaten hundred in four red-ball innings to take Warwickshire into the final day on 229 for one, requiring a further 290 for victory.

Bell and his second-wicket partner Dominic Sibley came together after the departure of left-hander Will Rhodes soon after lunch. Rhodes, back on his stumps to a Harry Podmore off-cutter went leg before for 25 leaving Bell and Sibley to bat out the remaining 55.4 overs of the day.

Despite numerous Kent bowling changes, the visiting partners reached stumps with aplomb, rarely looking in trouble as they batted throughout the third day’s final session.

The home bowlers switched ends in trying to make best use of Keith Barker’s day-two follow-through marks, but in truth off-spinner Adam Riley and rookie seamer Ivan Tomas offered little threat, Indeed Riley, in his last two championship starts, has now sent down 55.2 wicketless overs.

Bell, prodding somewhat at his 164th ball, was slightly fortuitous to move to his 55th first-class hundred with a 15th boundary that ran through to the unguarded ropes at fine leg via a thick inside edge against the bowling of Matt Henry.

Two deliveries later, Henry dropped to his haunches in exasperation after umpire James Middlebrook turned aside the Kiwi’s strenuous leg before plea.

At the other end Sibley, who was downed in the cordon shortly before lunch, looked sound in defence and restrained in his stroke play in reaching 82 from 197 balls faced.

The pair will likely need to extend their stand into the final day if they are to beat the highest ever fourth-innings run chase in championship history set by Middlesex in beating Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 1925.

Warwickshire’s own best last innings chase came far more recently however, when they pursued 427 to beat Somerset at Taunton in 2013.

At the start of the day, promotion-chasing Kent batted on for a further 22 overs as seventh-wicket pairing Zak Crawley and Harry Podmore frustrated Jeetan Patel’s side for an hour in adding a further 53 runs.

Crawley, the 19-year-old former Tonbridge School opener, posted his maiden championship half-century from 87 balls and with four fours, but, with his score on 24, Podmore aimed to force a short, loose delivery from Oliver Hannon-Dalby and succeeded in edging to the keeper Tim Amrose.

Crawley, dropped at slip when on 89 by Jonathan Trott, lasted only two more balls before Hannon-Dalby finally got his man lbw for 93. Having just nicked a streaky boundary to third man, Crawley was undone by an off-cutter that thudded into his front pad.

After a lusty 20 from Matt Henry, Kent’s acting skipper Joe Denly declared at 12.25pm, leaving Warwickshire to face a mammoth, first-class record run chase of 519 for victory. By the close, Denly may have already been wishing he’d have batted on a tad longer.

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