After our battering at the hands of the Scots north of the border, we were grateful to return to home comforts when we entertained Namibia in Arundel. Tom Curran and Jack Leach were dropped from the XI, with Jake Ball recalled to the side and Toby Roland-Jones handed a Test debut.
Toby Roland-Jones snapped up his first Test victim.
Such was the unrelenting quality performed by the opening bowlers, Roland-Jones had to wait until after lunch for his opportunity but soon claimed his first Test wicket. In truth however, it was his Middlesex colleague Steven Finn (5-34), man of the match against the Scots, who really shone, ably supported by the returning Jake Ball (3-24).
Aneurin Donald (16), was unlucky to be given out LBW in the first over of the final session.
After restricting the visitors to just 110 in their first innings, for the second match in a row Kent opener Daniel Bell-Drummond held things together before being run out for 46. Stumper Jonny Bairstow (35) and fellow Yorkie, captain Joe Root (30), both innings consisting of just twenty deliveries, complimented DBD to lift us to a slightly underwhelming 173 all out but a vital lead of 53.
Jake Ball (4-31) led the way as we made early breakthroughs in Namibia’s second innings. Hampshire spinner Mason Crane (2-36) struck in the first over of the day and was a constant threat whilst debutant Toby Roland-Jones (2-45) looked like taking a wicket at any point before eventually doing so, claiming two more victims on Test debut. Namibia recovered well from 67-5 but Keith Barker (11-5-31-0) built pressure with his economical and consistent line before Steven Finn (2-42) removed both the African side’s top scorers, Bagel (69) and wicketkeeper Gardiner (32). After they were gone, Namibia collapsed from 176-6 to 189 all out. The number of maidens that we bowled was a vast improvement on past efforts as was our catching, only letting ourselves down on a couple of occasions late in the piece. Credit must also go to skipper Joe Root, his bowling changes or even non changes and tactics as a whole, were outstanding.
Sam Northeast (55 not out) recorded a maiden Test fifty and in doing so, led his country to victory.
Ben Duckett (0) and Aneurin Donald (5) were amongst those soon back in the hut as we slipped to 59-4 in pursuit of 127 for victory. Despite strong performances in the field, their Test futures now hang by the finest of threads. The fact that it may be fair to stick with a winning side will possibly, possibly save them. The likes of Liam Livingstone (12th man in this match), Alastair Cook, Nick Compton and Scott Borthwick to name a few, wait in the wings should we opt to make changes. Number three Sam Northeast showed how it should be done, as he put on a fifty partnership with Warwickshire’s Keith Barker (28) to alleviate any fears of an England slip-up. Barker was needlessly run out before Jonny Bairstow (8 not out) clobbered the winning runs. It was Kent batsman Northeast’s composure though, in striking a maiden Test fifty (55 not out) in only his second Test match to lead the side to victory, that can provide an example beacon to others in England’s batting line-up.
A five-wicket win was a welcome response to the Scottish episode. Though some places in the team are still up for grabs, many players have really placed two hands on their position in our strongest XI.