Stevens builds after Khan blows away Durham

Durham 121 Kent 305-8
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The Independent Online

So much for Durham's victory over Kent at Canterbury last week marking the end of their troubles. That result left their opponents at the bottom of the First Division table but vengeance may be immediate: Darren Stevens is unbeaten on 99 overnight and Kent lead by 184.

Durham thought the pitch good enough to bat first and there may have been little wrong with Phil Mustard's judgement in his second four-day match as captain. Jack Birkenshaw, the pitch inspector on duty, had no complaint, despite 18 wickets falling in the day. But the ball swung, Durham batted with less distinction than Kent and they were rolled over for 121 in the face of some quality bowling from Amjad Khan and Makhaya Ntini.

The champions have been hampered by injuries in the early weeks of the season and the suspicion of a jinx will be growing after Ben Stokes, the 18-year-old who has been in superb form with the bat lately, went over on his ankle in the field and is likely to be out for a number of weeks. Their run-scoring potential is also diminished by the absence of their experienced all-rounder Ian Blackwell, who has a calf injury.

Kent will be happy with the response of their batsmen, who appeared to take the view that aggression represented the best tactic and have given themselves a handy lead. Stevens, who is seldom inclined to be passive at the crease, has hit 11 fours and three sixes after his side added 171 in the last session.

Durham's innings never recovered from the loss of four wickets in the space of 22 deliveries after Ntini, in his last match of his stint with Kent, came up with a double-wicket maiden in the ninth over of the morning, dismissing Michael di Venuto and Scott Borthwick with balls that moved away.

Khan, who tended to bowl a little too wide of off stump initially, was impressive once he sorted his line out, trapping Kyle Coetzer with an inswinger before producing a peach of a delivery that swung late as Dale Benkenstein played down the line, finding an edge to third slip, at which point Durham were 27-4.

Two more wickets for Khan, in his ninth over, reduced them to 50 for 6 as Gareth Breese hit loosely to cover and Mustard misread an inswinger, to depart leg before. Stokes, with two hundreds in his last three innings, looked to be their only hope of recovery, but he perished for 27 when the persistent Ntini found some bounce and away movement.

Durham's cause was not helped by Steve Harmison's waywardness. The England bowler went at nearly eight an over, helping Rob Key and Joe Denly score 71 for the first wicket before the former edged Liam Plunkett to third slip. But the big difference has been Stevens.