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Kent head coach Matt Walker hopes Jack Leaning’s marathon County Championship 179 not out against Worcestershire in Canterbury can help kick-start his season

Head coach Matt Walker hopes Kent batsman Jack Leaning’s mammoth unbeaten century in their County Championship Division 1 draw with Worcestershire can help kick-start his season.

The 30-year-old’s 179 not out at Canterbury in Kent’s first-innings 407 all out was the second-longest recorded innings by time in county history after his 403-ball knock.

Jack Leaning - Kent head coach Matt Walker hopes his unbeaten century against Worcestershire can be the catalyst for a big summer for him. Picture: Keith Gillard
Jack Leaning - Kent head coach Matt Walker hopes his unbeaten century against Worcestershire can be the catalyst for a big summer for him. Picture: Keith Gillard

It was also Leaning’s first red-ball ton in 20 months - albeit he took a whack to the wrist which prevented him from batting in Kent’s second innings.

Walker said: “As batsmen, hundreds are sometimes the cure for everything.

“There’s no better feeling than runs on the board - no matter how good you feel about your game, how well you’re timing the ball, how technically sound you feel, a hundred is, sometimes, the absolute best remedy.

“Certainly at the start of last week (against Lancashire), I think he felt much better at the crease and was lining up really well. He didn’t get the runs that week.

“But to then put a hundred - a big hundred at that - behind him, that’s where you start to feel the confidence really flow.

Kent coach Matt Walker. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Kent coach Matt Walker. Picture: Barry Goodwin

“Hopefully, he’s full of them. Sometimes, it just takes that one to really kick-start your season off.

“If he keeps playing like that, I’m sure there will be many more.”

Only former captain David Fulton’s 207 against Yorkshire in Maidstone in 1998 was a longer recorded innings by time for Kent than the 585 minutes Leaning spent at the crease against Worcestershire - his first County Championship ton since September 2022.

Walker said: “I know that Jack will be thrilled.

“He’s not had his best start to the season - but he’s worked really hard to try and find the answer. He works extremely diligently on the areas that he needs to improve on.

“It was always coming. With Jack, you always felt that he was one knock away from getting back into the groove.

“I thought he played really nicely actually from a technical point of view. There were little things that we saw which, early season, weren’t there. But that’s him down to a tee.

“When the situation requires some really tough work, he usually puts his hand up and the timing of that was perfect to stand tall, be brave and scrap away.

“It wasn’t going to be a pretty innings - a lot of balls and a lot of dot balls faced - and a lot of patience shown. At times, he was still able to score pretty freely, as well.

“To be there unbeaten at the end was exactly what we needed.”

While Leaning got much-needed runs, England’s Zak Crawley added just 16 across his two innings as his slow start to the year by his standards continued.

But Walker said: “There’s never any stress over Zak.

“We know what a fine player he is. Like he’s done in the past, he’ll work hard to get himself into the right place.

“He’s hitting the ball really nicely - but it can go a bit like that, sometimes. You get a few low ones (scores) and, as an opening batsman, sometimes, you know that’s par for the course.

“But he’s only a knock away from being back to his very best.”

While Walker was frustrated with the nature of Kent’s pitch used against Worcestershire, he said the issues around the surface were not the fault of head of grounds Adrian Llong’s team.

“There’s no blame attached to Llongy,” he explained. “We couldn’t ask for a better groundsman or ground staff. They work tirelessly.

“I’m not a groundsman - but the grounds team have struggled enormously, trying to get moisture out of the pitches. We’re a little bit further down this week to give the top wickets (towards the indoor school) some preparation time.

“It’s an inexact science. There’s, obviously, an explanation of, when you prepare water pitches, you cannot play on one's around that preparation. We know the wickets down towards the middle of the ground are a bit flatter.

“It just lacked pace - that was all. The surface was fine. It just lacked pace and bounce, really, and all we really want is to try and give our seamers opportunities so, if the ball gets nicked, it carries. They want to see the ball flying through to the keeper waist-high - but it just lacked that pace.

“Bless them, the grounds staff have had a torrid time through pre-season and early season.

“I don’t know what the answer is when we have the winter that we have had, so there’s no blame on them at all.”

The match against Worcestershire also saw South African all-rounder Beyers Swanepoel make his Kent debut.

He struggled to make an immediate impact with the ball - but the 26-year-old did score a first-innings half-century.

Walker said: “Charles Stobo has arrived now. But he won’t be available for a couple of weeks until the two Championship games in the middle of the T20s.

“We still have Wes (Agar) and Beyers. I think Beyers has offered us some real quality. You can see that with the way he batted and I think eyes and ears widened when we saw the way he bowled.

“I think he’s going to be a challenge for a lot of batsmen. He hits a really good line, has a sort of bustling action and can challenge defences.

“I think he could cause some real problems.”

Next up for Kent is a County Championship trip to Taunton to face third-placed Somerset from Friday.

“We don’t know what we will get,” said Walker. “But based on recent history, it’ll certainly be more seamer-friendly.

“Last year when we went down there, it was certainly more seamer-friendly. Maybe it will be the same this time around. But certainly our group of bowlers - not just those who played this game - look in a pretty good place.

“It’s great now because we have Beyers, Wes, Gilly (Nathan Gilchrist), (George) Garrett and Grant (Stewart) is back fit now. We have options to cover all eventualities.

“We will pick the best attack for that game with a bit of rotation in mind. We certainly have a wider pool of seamers at our disposal now.

“I don’t know what we will get - I think it’ll be dangerous to go in with a fixed mind on what we’re going to get - but Somerset have two international spinners, as well.

“I’m not sure both are fit but (Shoaib) Bashir is a fantastic young spinner.

“It could be anything but, whatever it is, we will be prepared.”

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