Sam Billings became the first batsman to score two hundreds in the same Specsavers County Championship match at Emerald Headingley as Kent ploughed on towards a penultimate round victory on day three.
Billings, Kent’s captain, continued to etch his name into this venue’s folklore after sharing 346 in the first innings with Darren Stevens – the highest ever sixth-wicket partnership at LS6.
Kent set Yorkshire a preposterous target of 551 with 22 overs remaining in the day.
No team has ever chased more than 502 to win a Championship fixture, while the world record chase is 536.
That Kent batted seven overs into the evening session was a surprise, but it is highly unlikely to matter given Yorkshire closed on 44-6.
Should Kent win this fixture, they would leapfrog Yorkshire into fourth place in the table.
The White Rose started the round in third, but Hampshire have beaten Somerset to take that spot, meaning fifth place is most likely ahead of next week’s final round visit to Warwickshire.
Darren Stevens struck three times with the new ball inside the opening eight overs of the home ‘chase’, but this day was all about Billings and his 122 not out off 156 balls.
The 26-year-old hit 100 in the second innings of last week’s win at Notts and 138 in the first innings here, and an England Test call-up for New Zealand is now certain to be discussed.
In August 2017, West Indies batsman Shai Hope hit two centuries in their Test Match victory over England here, but Billings is the second – and the first in the Championship.
Billings had endured what he recently described as the worst six months of his cricketing career “by a mile”.
He missed the start of the county season due to Indian Premier League commitments, but he only played one game with Chennai Super Kings.
Then he dislocated his shoulder in his first county appearance for Kent in April and spent more than three months out of the game, meaning he missed selection for the World Cup.
He reached his second hundred in the match off 138 balls with 10×4s and one six with the first ball of the evening session, with Kent’s lead passing 500 later in the over.
While Billings played confidently all around the ground, wicketkeeper-batsman Ollie Robinson hit a fine 97 only to miss out on a second hundred against Yorkshire this summer.
The pair shared a fourth-wicket century stand either side of lunch.
Billings had reached his fifty off 80 balls with a six over cover off Ajaz Patel, who has endured a White Rose debut he will want to forget.
The New Zealand Test left-arm spinner conceded more than 100 runs in each innings – match figures of 2-231 from 35 overs.
Matthew Fisher struck twice with the new ball in the opening eight overs of the day before Yorkshire captain Steve Patterson removed South Africa skipper Francois du Plessis for 36.
Duanne Olivier and Patel also claimed a wicket apiece, while there were two run outs.
Stevens then wrecked Yorkshire’s top order with the new ball.
He trapped Matty Revis lbw for a three-ball duck and moved Adam Lyth the same way, the latter shouldering arms. He then had Gary Ballance at second slip as White Rose fell to 16-3 after eight overs.
Matt Milnes later had Harry Brook caught at first slip before Stevens had Tom Kohler-Cadmore brilliantly caught at gully by diving Ollie Rayner (43-5).
Zak Crawley also pulled off a brilliant one-handed catch at third slip to help Milnes remove nightwatchman Patterson, the third wicket to fall on 43 in 12 balls.
What they said…
Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale
“It’s been a difficult few weeks if we’re being honest. Since the first day at Taunton last week, we haven’t performed well.
“The first 10 overs of this game, yes, we had them 39 for five. Since then, if we’re being honest, we’ve all got to take responsibility for our performance.
“It’s been well, well below par.
“I’ve always prided myself, my sides and the way Yorkshire sides play cricket on grit and determination, those sorts of characteristics. We’ve shown none of those over the last few weeks. We’ve rolled over.
“That’s what disappoints me and hurts me the most.
“You’re thinking, ‘Did they declare a bit late there?’. In hindsight, they probably timed it to perfection.
“We thought if we could get through maybe one down tonight, we’d have a chance of a Trent Bridge last day scenario (first game of the season draw). But they bowled well.
“You’ve got to be up to the task. There’s no massive demons in the pitch. It’s a new ball pitch, and they put the ball in good areas. But we weren’t up to the task. We played at balls we didn’t need to play at, we got stuck on the crease. Those six wickets tonight have really hurt.”
Kent captain Sam Billings
(First man to score two hundreds in a Championship match at Headingley) “Really? Wow. That is amazing.
“Look, it was just enjoyable to have some time in the middle. As I’ve said before, it’s been a disappointing summer for myself, missing a home World Cup etc.
“I’m trying to make up for lost time. When you’re in form as well, you can’t take it for granted. You’re always going to have a run of bad form, especially in the red ball game. It can be even more brutal than the white ball game. When you’re in a good run of form, you have to make the most of it.
“I’m really enjoying my batting at the moment, and it’s great to play in this team.
“If I’m honest, I was hoping to get two maybe three wickets tonight.
“The thinking behind us batting on was that you don’t want the ball to be too old going into that morning session, 10.30am start. It’s done more in that first hour every morning than any other part of the day.
“You don’t want to be bowling with a soft ball. We’ve got more than we thought. The boys did exceptionally. Darren Stevens keeps going.
“I’ve got two hundreds in the game, and I’ll probably not even be talked about. It’s his game of cricket.
“I also thought Ollie Robinson played brilliantly today. He’s had a fantastic season. His keeping’s got better and better, and he’s a really exciting batting prospect.
“We dropped six catches in the first innings, albeit some really tough chances. But a couple of bits of magic there in the field. It’s a funny game, cricket. When things are going your way, things like that happen. Visa versa when it’s not.”