Stevens shows unexpected grit to save Kent

Kent 313-9 v Yorkshire
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The Independent Online

If Kent were to pick one of their number to bat the side out of a hole the quixotic Darren Stevens would not be the name that sprang most readily into the minds of his team-mates. Yet it was the 33-year-old Leicestershire-born right-hander who dug deepest on the opening day at a sunny, yet distinctly chilly, St Lawrence with an uncharacteristic 92 scored in a shade under three hours to add crucial ballast to Kent's workmanlike total.

Renowned for a "stand-and-deliver" style that has made him one of the game's most feared Twenty20 batsmen, Stevens tempered his attacking instincts in the face of a stern examination from a Yorkshire attack that has propelled the White Rose county to the top of the First Division table with two wins from as many starts.

Stevens came to the crease with his side in trouble at 131 for four and, from the non-striker's end, witnessed the demise of Martin van Jaarsveld to the very next delivery. The former South African Test player edged an attempted pull down the leg-side to wicketkeeper Jonathan Bairstow, who clung on at the second attempt.

Helped by early cloud cover and a cross wind, Yorkshire's new-ball triumvirate of Ajmal Shahzad, Tim Bresnan and the lofty Oliver Hannon-Dalby offered a contrasting threat to a Kent top-order that had elected to bat first. The slippery Shahzad got one to lift and brush the edge of home captain Rob Key's bat to present an easy catch to Bairstow, while James Hockley obligingly miscued a "tennis ball bouncer" into the hands of deep mid-wicket against the same bowler.

The bustling Bresnan showed his quality by nipping one back in to Geraint Jones to peg back off-stump and it was his bumper that proved too sharp for Van Jaarsveld, as Kent lost six even before managing to post their first batting bonus point.

Even when he turned to spin, the Tykes' captain Andrew Gale came up trumps as slow left-armer David Wainwright chipped in with two key Kentish scalps. After a brisk 32, opener Joe Denly gifted his wicket by looping a drive to short cover then Sam Northeast, having taken 45 minutes to get off the mark, missed a sweep to go leg before.

Just before the close Shahzad returned for his fourth spell and his third victim when Stevens, eight short of his hundred, parried away from his body to be taken at second slip by Anthony McGrath.

Bresnan then took his tally to four by dislodging James Tredwell for a stoic 32 before Azhar Mahmood was caught by Jacques Rudolph for 21, leaving 19-year-old seamer Matt Coles the unbeaten man on three. Yorkshire's day might have proved even sweeter, however, had they not conceded almost 40 extras, including 18 byes to young Bairstow, who suffered a scrappy day behind the stumps.