Zak Crawley’s stylish century led a plucky Kent recovery on the opening day of their 107th Tunbridge Wells Cricket Week fixture against First Division rivals Nottinghamshire.
Kent supporters, who made up the vast majority of a sun-kissed 2,000 crowd for the first day of this Specsavers County Championship clash, must have feared the worst after seeing five wickets fall before lunch barely four days after being skittled for 59 by Somerset.
However, Crawley – educated four miles down the road at Tonbridge School, the alma mater of Colin Cowdrey and Ed Smith – joined forces with Grant Stewart in a seventh-wicket stand that added exactly a century.
Kent’s last-wicket partners Matt Milnes and Harry Podmore then added an invaluable 55 in 14.2 overs to take Kent to the relative riches of 309 all out to bank three batting bonus points.
In the 10 overs through to the close, Nottinghamshire’s left-handed openers Ben Duckett and Ben Slater survived a couple of scares in reaching 30 without loss, a deficit of 279 runs going into day two.
Pattinson, playing his last game for Nottinghamshire ahead of joining the Australia A tour party, said: “It was good to take some wickets.
“We started really well with the ball, but it ended up being a mixed day for us.
“Had we been a bit tighter with the ball we may have got them out for 220 to 230, but credit to young Crawley who batted really well for his hundred to put them in a decent position.
“I was looking for a seven-for and a career-best and I had my chance bowling at No10 and 11, but it wasn’t to be.
“There was a bit in the pitch to start with, but it flattened up and traditionally there have been some big scores here. Hopefully, we can use that to our advantage by batting for most of tomorrow to get in front with a big lead.
“I think we have to come back tomorrow with clear plans, get stuck in and have a batsman get wedged to get us through to a big score and a decent lead.”
Batting first after an uncontested toss and on a pitch showing some greenish tints following heavy rain in the Royal Spa Town on Sunday morning, Kent lost Sean Dickson to only the third ball of the game from Pattinson, the Australian Test bowler.
Having got off the mark with a thick edge through the cordon to third man, Dickson drove with firm hands at a Pattinson leg-cutter to be caught behind by Tom Moores.
Joe Denly, in need of runs to push his case for inclusion in England’s Ashes squad, had only eight to his name when he worked across the line against Pattinson to depart lbw after umpire Steve O’Shaughnessy upheld the appeal.
Though neither player looked totally secure, Crawley and Daniel Bell-Drummond took Kent’s score on to 50 before Bell-Drummond (4) offered a low chance that keeper Moores, diving to his right, failed to cling on to, much to the annoyance of Jake Ball, the bowler.
Pattinson rested after a fine spell of 8-2-27-2 at the Nevill Ground’s Pavilion End, to be replaced by Luke Fletcher, who struck with his ninth delivery by snaring Bell-Drummond leg-before.
Fletcher struck again four overs later, running a full delivery past the crab-like defensive prod of Heino Kuhn to peg back leg stump.
Crawley posted his 68-ball 50 with nine fours, but Ball’s luck changed just before the break when he had Ollie Robinson caught on the drive after a game off pass-the-parcel in the slip cordon.
The thick edge was initially dropped by Mullaney at third, parried by Matthew Carter at second and eventually caught by Duckett at first slip.
Soon after lunch, Crawley lost sixth-wicket partner Wiaan Mulder leg before to the excellent Pattinson, bringing Stewart to the crease to forge a century stand inside 32 overs.
Stewart reached his 50 from 69 balls while Crawley posted his third first-class century from 157 balls and with 14 fours before Pattinson’s return caused further mayhem.
Stewart missed an ambitious drive to have leg stump pegged back then Ollie Rayner, the Middlesex loanee, bagged a golden duck on his Kentish debut, leg before when prodding forward propping forward.
Pattinson should have had Podmore caught in the deep for 13 soon after tea when Samit Patel downed a low chance on the run at deep mid-wicket.
But two balls later the Melbourne-born seamer ended Crawley’s 284-minute stay with his score on ‘Nelson’s’ by running one through the right-hander’s gate to demolish off stump.
Podmore was left high and dry on 49 when Milnes nicked off against the second new ball to be caught at first slip against Ball, who finished with two for 59.
Fletcher also bagged a brace, but Pattinson was clearly the classiest act on the field in claiming 6-73.
Crawley, Kent’s century-maker and leading championship run-scorer, said: “As far as county grounds go this is closest to home and I know a lot of people in the crowd here, so it was good to get runs here once again.
“I’m well aware that its an Ashes year and anyone who has a good season might get an England call-up, but as I said last week, I’m trying to put that to one side.
“The bowlers are too good in Division One to get too far ahead of yourself. I was out twice in a day to Lewis Gregory last week, but today was my turn to cash in.
“For that very reason I’m not looking any further ahead than the second innings here and how I’ll play this Notts bowling attack.
“The first session was clearly the hardest today, we lost a few wickets and I was the ‘in man’ so they kept giving me a single or hanging the ball out there a little wider. It wasn’t easier, but it got better as the pitch dried out.
“They set short mid-off and mid-on to be later in the day to cut out my straight driving, so the I had to play the patience game. They’re looking to try and make you score in other areas you, so I had to see out a few maidens and try and score down the other end.
“We’re in a decent position now and hopefully, we can bowl attacking lines at the stumps tomorrow, bring lbws and nick-offs into play.”