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Sam Billings helps Kent salvage dramatic draw at Durham in Specsavers Championship Division 2

By KentOnline reporter

Matt Walker was full of praise after Sam Billings returned from the migraine which had laid him low for two days to defy Durham in the Specsavers County Championship match at Chester-le-Street.

Set a near-impossible target of 371 in 56 overs to claim an unlikely victory, there were 28 overs left when Billings went in on the final afternoon with his side reeling on 74-5. But while four more wickets fell, he remained unbeaten on 70 as Kent escaped last over drama against Durham to emerge with a draw for the second time this season.

Kent's failure to win in a week where promotion rivals Worcestershire inflicted a first defeat on leaders Notts did further dent their hopes of a return to the top-flight while it extended their winless run since May in four-day cricket.

Sam Billings. Picture: Andy Payton.
Sam Billings. Picture: Andy Payton.

There were six overs left when Onions pinned Adam Milne lbw to break the record of 518 first-class wickets for Durham, held since 2002 by left-arm seamer Simon Brown.

That brought in Imran Qayyum, but he was well protected by Billings and faced only two balls before edging the first ball of the penultimate over to Paul Collingwood at first slip off James Weighell.

Last man Mitch Claydon, on his 100th First Class appearance, who defied his former teammates when Kent also hung on with nine wickets at Canterbury, survived the over and Billings then kept out Onions.

Kent closed on 184-9, leaving Durham to rue their belated declaration and accept their frustrating fate in a match which lost four sessions to the weather.

Kent coach Walker admitted: “We were surprised they batted on after lunch (on the final day). We thought 300 was enough on a pitch which had enough in it for a quality bowling attack. I thought they would have wanted 65 overs, but it nearly worked for them.

“With Worcestershire winning we would have liked to have a crack at a target, but 370 was too many.

“In terms of the situation and the way he has been feeling for the previous two days that's as well as I've seen Sam Billings play in four-day cricket.

"He didn't feel right after day one and still wasn't 100 per cent on the last, but he showed great character and skill. To see us home was an excellent effort.”

Sam Northeast. Picture: Andy Payton.
Sam Northeast. Picture: Andy Payton.

Kent skipper Sam Northeast followed his 110 out of 206 in the first innings by making 67 of the first 112 runs.

After passing 1,000 championship runs in the morning, Paul Collingwood batted on for 7.3 overs to add 62 after lunch before declaring on 359-7.

Following Worcestershire's win the belief was that Kent would have to go for it to retain any hope of promotion. But it was out of the question once they lost openers Sean Dickson and Daniel Bell-Drummond without a run on the board.

Northeast had progressed to a 69-ball half-century by the time Billings joined him and then hit 10 fours in his 72-ball fifty.

In the morning former Kent man Tom Latham completed his second century in three games for Durham after being dropped by Joe Denly off the luckless Adam Milne on 65.

After a rain-hit start to the match, Kent reduced the hosts to 77-7 in their first innings only for James Weighell (55) and Mark Wood (72 not out) to put on a record 106 for the eighth wicket to guide their side to 217 all-out. Milne had 4-68 with Claydon taking 5-45 against his previous club.

Northeast's superb 110 was the lone resistance as Kent toiled in reply, with the 26 mustered by Bell-Drummond and Zak Crawley the second largest contribution with Billings departing for a duck, bowled by Onions batting at nine after being stricken by the migraine.

It also prevented him taking the field, with Bell-Drummond and Denly taking the gloves as Kent allowed a good start, reducing Durham to 39-2, to slip with another monster stand of 180 between Latham and Graham Clark (86) taking the game out of Kent's reach.

In the end the nine point return saw Kent slip to fifth with three games remaining, 40 points behind Worcestershire in second, though with a game in hand.

Kent are back in action at Gloucestershire on Tuesday (10.30am).

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