Sussex on top despite Jas Singh four-for on debut for Covid-weakened Kent

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Kent stumble in reply with bat after scrambling to find replacement team

Kent 69 for 5 trail Sussex 181 (Singh 4-51) by 112 runs

Sussex reduced a Kent side hobbled by a Covid-19 scare to 69 for 5 on day one of their LV= Insurance County Championship match at Canterbury, leaving them 112 behind the visitors’ first innings score of 181.

Jamie Atkins took 3 for 21 and Ollie Robinson 3 for 21, as Kent’s makeshift top order failed to build on their best red-ball bowling display of the season. Nineteen-year-old debutant Jas Singh took 4 for 51 and Harry Podmore 3 for 49, while James Coles was Sussex’s top scorer with 36.

“I think actually after the England situation happened we spoke to the group to take a step back, to go back to where we were last year at the start of the season, when Covid was around us, to limit their access to people outside the group, to avoid busy areas like pubs, bars, coffee houses and just make sure we’re doing everything we can to be careful,” Kent’s coach, Matt Walker, said. “Ironically a few days later we had our first case.

“The results came back to us at 7pm last night. Obviously it turned out to be a positive test and the mad scramble started to happen, it was all hands on deck from everyone involved. We were prepared in a way that if that test was positive, we had a few players on standby which made things a little bit easier. Trying to organise everything logistically was a bit of a headache, but we got there in the end and managed to get a game on.”

Kent’s preparations for Canterbury Week were thrown into chaos when an unidentified member of the Vitality Blast side that beat Surrey on Friday tested positive for Covid-19. As his team-mates were all identified as close contacts, Heino Kuhn was named captain of an improvised XI that included five new faces: Singh, Joe Gordon, Harry Finch, Dan Lincoln and Harry Houillon, joined regular first-teamers Podmore, Matt Quinn, Nathan Gilchrist and Marcus O’Riordan, while Hamid Qadri was selected for the first time this season.

The start was delayed until noon to allow Kent to register their new players and after winning the toss and choosing to bowl they entered the arena to warm applause.

“Fortunately half the side weren’t at The Oval so that gave you half a team,” Walker said. “We didn’t want to cancel the game, that’s for sure. As much as it was going to be a challenge to get 11 players we felt we could do it. It’s Canterbury week, it’s festival week and I think we had a duty to put a team together.

“It was late to bed, that’s for sure. The phone didn’t stop ringing and pinging with texts until midnight, but as soon as the phone went off I went to sleep very quickly! For all the downside of having a squad isolated you get a chance to see what these young players can do.”

Sussex’s openers Ali Orr and Tom Haines made 50 without loss, but the former cut Singh and was brilliantly caught by O’Riordan for 21. Singh then had Haines caught for 25 in his next over, held by Kuhn at first slip after the ball was parried by Finch, leaving Sussex on 51 for 2 at lunch.

Gilchrist trapped Harrison Ward for 4 and Travis Head then drove Singh to Kuhn for 12. Singh claimed his fourth wicket when he had Oliver Carter caught behind for 32, making him Houillon’s maiden first-class victim.

Qadri got Coles lbw with his first ball, Gilchrist had Dan Ibrahim caught behind for 6 and Podmore swept away the tail, getting Robinson caught behind for 21 before trapping Sean Hunt lbw and bowling Atkins, both for nought.

However, Kent’s batsmen struggled to emulate the bowlers’ heroics. Gordon was lbw to Robinson for 8, before Atkins had O’Riordan lbw for 18. The latter then bowled Kuhn for 8 and Lincoln for nought. Robinson had Houillon lbw for a duck before bad light stopped play at 6.50pm, with former Sussex batter Finch 24 not out and Podmore unbeaten on 3.

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