Matt Coles was tipped by many to be the one to watch for Kent this season. Matured by a season fraught with injury, wickets and healthy amount of learning in his first full campaign.
The 21-year-old wintered with the England Strength and Conditioning Programme, earning a call-up to the England Lions following Stuart Meaker’s untimely injury.
Punters could be forgiven for thinking that it would be his bowling, rather than his batting that would come to the fore, scorching 103 runs in timely fashion, dutifully assisted by an unlikely half century from Mark Davies, becoming the third Kent debutant to reach the milestone on debut.
Coles paid tribute to his hard work during the winter and believes he has a genuine case to answer for becoming an all-rounder in this Kent side. He has the strokes, the temperament and now a tail that can support his ambitions.
The blazing sunshine of Day One was replaced with the more cumbersome cloud that the abundant crowd at Headingley expected at this time of year.
The conditions were more conjusive to swing and with a ball just 16 overs old, Shazad and Sidebottom set about Stevens and Riley, who struggled to score as freely as yesterday.
Three wickets for 16 runs lifted the Leeds gloom. Stevens, having just punched a powerful cover drive for four, found himself tangled up by a Shazad slower ball, offering Sayers the simplest of catches for 29.
Jones’ brief soiree lasted 16 scratchy ball before Shazad breached his gate for 2 and Riley followed soon after, utterly bamboozled by a delightful slower delivery from the much improved Rashid.
Yorkshire sensed Kent were there for the taking but as with yesterday, when Sidebottom and Shazad were removed from the attack, Kent struck back, trading counter punches with the Yorkshire change bowlers.
Matt Coles dabbled with the delicate and threw in his customary power for good measure to glide effortlessly to 52 at lunch. He found an unlikely ally in Mark Davies, who remarked last week that he “wasn’t here for his batting.” His 35 not out at lunch featured a succession of fancy cut shots.
Their 85 partnership, taking the score from 374-8 to 459-8 at lunch, knocked the wind out of Yorkshire, deflating a team mentally strapping up their pads in the dressing room.
DAY TWO: Lunch – Kent 459-8 (Coles 52*, Davies 35*)
Questions over whether the declaration or the milestones would arrive first were quashed after the pair resumed, initially at pace, but calming into a more tranquil, tempo, conscious how much they needed each other to break the personal barriers.
Coles was offered his first reprieve when dropped by Ryan Sidebottom on 56. An ugly full toss from Rashid was struck straight down the throat of Sidebottom at Deep Backward Square Leg, who not only spilled the simple shoulder-high catch, but parried it across the rope for 4.
Davies won the milestone race, clipping Rashid through the legside for four and punching the air at the non-strikers end. An instant impact on his Kent debut.
Davies’ innings was all the more important because it enabled Coles to express himself in his entirety, offering an array of strokes on both sides of the wicket, including a comical moment when he dispatched a monumental six into the midwicket stand, vacated by specatators for this fixture. Cue messers Sidebottom and Shazad trying and failing to locate it.
Having broken record after record an amassed the highest partnership of innings worth 157, Davies perished when Anthony McGrath part time medium pace found his edge and the hands of Balance at first slip.
Coles, on 93, looked visibly nervous at the other end as Charlie Shreck strode to the crease and he immediately went on the offensive, dragging the reverse sweep out of his kitbag.
It nearly punished the 21-year-old when he was dropped on the deep extra cover boundary for 95 but responded by clubbing Rashid over Deep Backward Point with the most audacious of reverse sweeps to accrue 103 valuable and precious runs. Coles’ maiden first class century is one that will live long in the memory.
His landmark brought about the declaration from Rob Key, Kent closing on 537-9d.
Yorkshire safely negotiated the 9 overs before tea, unalarmed by a lack of swing and movement from Davies and Shreck.
DAY TWO: Tea – Yorkshire 32-0 (Sayers 19*, Root 13*)
Bad light and intermittent drizzle left Kent frustrated at their inability to set about the Yorkshire top order in anger in the evening session, play eventually curtailed for the day at 18:00.
DAY TWO: Stumps – Kent (537-9d) lead Yorks (32-0) by 505 runs
Saturday, 7th April 2012