There was a faint whiff of nostalgia in the air at the St Lawrence Ground yesterday where Kent and Essex continued their fierce battle to avoid the championship relegation places.
Amongst the healthy turn out for this derby dogfight, Kent's faithful will probably have spotted England legend Derek Underwood as well as their former crowd favourite Dean Headley, the one-time Kent and England pace bowler.
Underwood, here to present awards to unsung heroes of local village clubs, might have fancied throwing off his jacket and turning his once golden arm over again on a tinder-dry surface that captured the interest of Kent's latter-day spinners Malinga Bandara and James Tredwell.
Bandara, the Sri Lankan wrist-spinner and England's understudy off-spinner, Tredwell, managed to beat the bat and make scoring tricky for the Essex top-order, but neither enjoyed much luck as Essex limped along at 2.6 an over. Indeed, it was Kent's seamers who shared the three wickets that fell during an attritional mid-session in which Essex mustered only 82 runs.
Amjad Khan, the subject of recent 28-day approach letters from Somerset and Sussex, made the first breakthrough after 23 overs by coaxing Jaik Mickleburgh to fence away from his body and snick, throat-high to Darren Stevens at third slip. Three balls later Simon Cook ran one down the slope to brush the outside edge of Tom Westley's defensive bat for Tredwell to pocket a sharp, low chance at slip and bring in another Kent old-boy, Matthew Walker.
Walker had just edged into double figures when he sparred at a snorter from Azhar Mahmood and edged into the gloves of Geraint Jones. It all left Headley, the newly-appointed cricket master at Stamford School in Lincolnshire, shaking his head in disbelief: "Have batsmen forgotten how to leave the ball these days? It seems to me that it's an art form which has completely gone out of the game."
It may be that Mark Pettini and James Foster overheard Headley's protestations as they came out after tea to simply bat out time. They added 73 for the fourth wicket before Foster's demise sparked a secondary collapse. Mahmood pegged back Foster's off stump and then Bandara had Tim Phillips caught bat-pad at short leg.
Batting at No 7 following his first-day back injury, Ravi Bopara lasted only four balls before edging Khan to complete a miserable couple of days and leave Essex needing a further 77 to avoid the follow-on.
Pettini, who survived a stumping chance off Tredwell on 39, remained undefeated on 80 at stumps.Reuse content