In temperatures more akin to Reykjavik than Rawalpindi, it was former Pakistan Test all-rounder Azhar Mahmood who warmed to the task of keeping his adopted Kent in contention on day two of an engaging tussle with championship leaders Yorkshire.
The 35-year-old won the last of his 21 Test caps at Manchester almost nine years ago, yet he rolled back the years and made light of a distinct nip in the air to trouble a Yorkshire top order that, on paper at least, looks as promising as any in the division.
Responding to Kent's stoical 317 all out, Yorkshire found themselves in trouble at 120 for 6 against a Kent seam attack shorn of three injured first-choice seamers; Robbie Joseph, Simon Cook and winter recruit Dewald Nel.
Yet Yorkshire's plethora of left-handers began marching back to the pavilion as early as the third over when Adam Lyth feathered one from Amjad Khan to the tumbling Geraint Jones. Opening partner Joe Sayers joined him three overs later when Mahmood, bowling from the Pavilion End and almost into the teeth of a north-easterly cross wind, maintained immaculate line and length to trap Sayers lbw.
In a 10-over, pre-lunch stint which included three maidens, Mahmood took his tally to 2 for 24 when Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale pushed at a leg-cutter and edged low to the cordon where Martin van Jaarsveld leapt across first slip to claim the catch.
Six balls after lunch the occasional "dibbly-dob" of Darren Stevens sent Anthony McGrath packing for 40 when one thudded into his back pad, then England off-spinner James Tredwell took wickets with consecutive balls, accounting for Jacques Rudolph, caught behind cutting, then Tim Bresnan at slip from an ill-judged, first-ball mow.
To their credit Yorkshire's boyish seventh-wicket partners Adil Rashid and Jonathan Bairstow dug in to add 126 in 43 overs before Khan's third delivery with the second new ball dislodged Bairstow for 70, fishing to third slip. Nine balls later, Mahmood claimed his third victim of the day having Rashid lbw on the back foot to a shooting off-cutter for an enterprising 59.
Ajmal Shahzad and David Wainwright added an unbroken 32 by the close and will resume this morning looking to wipe out the arrears.
Delighted by Mahmood's contribution, Kent's head coach, Paul Farbrace, said: "The bloke is one of the most skilful cricketers ever to have played the game. Clearly, he's not in the first flush and isn't as sprightly as he once was, but he's great to have around and a good influence on someone like Amjad Khan, who responds well to having Azhar at the other end keeping things tight. Obviously we have to look after him a bit, the trick with Azhar is to convince him that he's only a day or so away from putting his feet up and a day off."
Kent's bowling woes could be resolved next week should South African seamer Makhaya Ntini arrive to reinforce their ranks. The 32-year-old with 101 Test caps is being strongly linked with the county, who would welcome his services for five weeks as overseas locum for Sri Lankan wrist spinner Malinga Bandara, who will play from late May.Reuse content