Foster guides Essex home

James Foster led from the front as Essex opened their LV= County Championship Division Two campaign with a five-wicket triumph against Kent at the Essex County Ground.

The home skipper hit an unbeaten 80, containing 10 fours and one maximum, to lead his side to their victory target of 193 shortly after the lunch interval.

The third day began with the game evenly poised and the home side lost the wicket of 17-year-old Daniel Lawrence without addition to the overnight score of 66 for three.

The youngster became Mitchell Claydon’s third victim of the innings when he was snapped up at forward short-leg but that dismissal heralded the arrival of Foster to underline his class.

While nightwatchman Jamie Porter was content to defend resolutely at one end, Foster, despite one or two anxious moments on a pitch where the ball sometimes rose awkwardly off a length, penetrated the field with some forceful strokes either side of the wicket. 

When the 50 stand was raised from 109 balls, Porter’s share was a solitary single, off Ivan Thomas, having been put down by Matt Coles at second slip in the same over.

Porter then picked up runs through midwicket before earning a big cheer from the crowd when he found the off-side boundary against Claydon.

However, soon afterwards he was dismissed in unfortunate circumstances when a delivery from Coles struck him on the helmet and trickled onto his stumps to dislodge the bails.

Porter’s valuable resistance, that spanned 85 deliveries, had brought him 14 runs and one boundary in a stand that yielded 66 in 22 overs. 

That was the last success Kent were able to celebrate as Foster, in partnership with Jesse Ryder, saw Essex to the winning post.

They needed just nine balls after lunch to gather the 23 runs required with both batsmen hitting sixes. Foster despatched Claydon into the crowd in front of the pavilion at midwicket while the New Zealander sent a ball from Thomas over long-on.

The victory underlined Essex’s fighting qualities particularly as they were in dire trouble at 69 for seven in their first innings, and gives them a great start to their season’s main objective of winning promotion to Division One.

It also gave them their sixth consecutive Championship victory, a sequence which began in mid-July last year.

Essex collect 19 points while Kent took just three in a match when neither side collected a batting point to underline that run-gathering was far from easy.  

Foster said: “I’m very pleased at the way we went about our business throughout the game. It was a target of ours to build on the momentum we gained at the end of last season when we won six of our last seven games and we’ve started off successfully.

“We were indebted to Graham Napier for his first-innings contribution with the bat that got us to within a few runs of the Kent score.

“With our bowling attack, we felt that we could restrict them second time around and give ourselves a good chance.”

Kent all-rounder Darren Stevens reflected: “I thought we didn’t have any luck early today. They were playing and missing a lot but we stuck to our plans. We gave it everything we had but it just didn’t go our way.

“We felt if we got over 180 in our second innings that we had a good chance but the wicket got a little bit flatter. As I say, we didn’t get a lot of luck this morning.” 

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