Bob Willis Trophy: Rain-hit game between Kent and Middlesex ends in draw

Sam Robson
Middlesex opener Sam Robson played seven Tests for England in 2014
Bob Willis Trophy, Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence (day four):
Middlesex 269 & 169-1 dec: Robson 82*, Holden 72
Kent 191 & 70-0: O'Riordan 34*
Kent (11 pts) drew with Middlesex (13 pts)

Middlesex and Kent shared the Bob Willis Trophy spoils in Canterbury despite a late declaration that gave the dominant visitors a glimmer of hope they could pull off a fourth-day upset.

As it was, Kent's unlikely pursuit of 248 ended just after 17:00 BST with the hosts on 70-0 and with fist-bumps all round - no handshakes are allowed under Covid-19 protocols - to mark the draw.

Having removed their South Group hosts for a modest 191 at the start of the day, Middlesex had set about extending their 78-run first-innings lead through openers Sam Robson and Max Holden.

Accelerating after the lunch interval, they posted a 50 stand from 82 balls, forcing Kent skipper Sam Billings to go on the defensive with his field placings in order to stem the run rate.

Robson should have gone for 23 but his edged cut against Fred Klaassen was downed by Billings stationed at sole slip.

In slowing the over rate and stemming the flow of runs, Kent hoped to reduce the likelihood of Middlesex snatching a last-gasp win. Even so, Holden reached a half-century off 60 balls with six fours and celebrated with a straight six off spinner Marcus O'Riordan.

The century opening stand came up in the 25th over and Robson posted his fifty from 96 balls and with four boundaries.

With the lead already over 200, the first-wicket stand ended for 143 when Holden, on 72, sliced an attempted lofted drive against O'Riordan to Joe Denly at extra cover.

Inexplicably, Robson barely picked up the pace thereafter and had reached 82 not out from 143 when the players went in at tea. With his side 247 ahead, Stevie Eskinazi declared late in the interval, asking Kent to chase a nominal target of 248 in 32 overs at an asking rate of 7.75 per over.

Batting again by 16:05, Kent resisted tinkering with the order or attempting any suicidal pursuit, allowing Daniel Bell-Drummond and O'Riordan to successfully see off the new ball bursts of Miguel Cummins and Ethan Bamber on what was a flat, fourth-day pitch.

O'Riordan reached a career-best 34 not out and Bell-Drummond was unbeaten on 31 when the status quo was formally agreed just after 17:00 and with 18 of the scheduled overs remaining.

Kent had started the final day on 146-5 in their first innings and trailing in the match by 123 runs, but conspired to lose their last five wickets for 23 runs in the space of 11 overs, with Cummins taking 5-62.

Kent head coach Matt Walker:

"It's frustrating that we lost so much time to bad weather over the course of the game. We thought that perhaps Middlesex might want to set up a game.

"We talked about maybe going for the runs but to score at 10 an over in red-ball cricket is a bridge too far. We could have perhaps had a bit of a crack at it, but I feel the bigger benefit for us was to get through it pretty much unscathed.

"It was tempting to maybe try to force the issue but the asking rate can quickly become 12 or 13 an over. I've been in those situations before, and it soon becomes a lost cause.

"It may seem a bit of a negative way of looking at it, but the bigger picture for us for that session was to see our openers get in, play nicely and find some rhythm."

Middlesex batsman Max Holden:

"The overhead conditions played quite a big part in the game over the opening two days and the lights made it a challenge for the batsmen.

"It was testament to Robbie White and Jamie Harris on the way they knuckled down in that first innings. They got stuck in under the lights when it was a lot trickier.

"It was a shame we couldn't quite push for the win. Declaring a little earlier was considered, but we didn't want to give Kent much of a chance after all the good work we'd done battling through those first two days.

"Obviously, we were hoping if we got a couple of wickets early and got on a roll, then you never know what might happen."

Match report supplied by PA Media.

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