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Hard work pays off for two-ton Clarke in New Road epic

(Photo: Getty Images)

By Chris Oldnall

Matt Mason saluted England Lion Joe Clarke for the way he roared back to form with two impressive centuries as Worcesteshire completed a colossal run-chase which had been set up by a record-breaking 227 from Kent’s Joe Denly.

Clarke hit 142 to help his side gain a 76-run first innings lead despite a well earned six-for by paceman Matt Coles and then added an unbeaten 110 to Daryl Mitchell’s 142 as Worcestershire won by four wickets.

By then Denly had thrown the sun-soaked County Championship Division Two match into the melting pot by making the highest score by a Kent batsman against Worcestershire.

Clarke’s previous highest Championship score this season had been 39, but New Road assistant coach Mason knew it was only a matter of time before the highly-rated batsman would return to three-figure form.

Mason said: “He’s found things a little bit tough this year, but he’s young. He’ll go through these periods in his career, but what’s important about this innings is that’s he’s worked his way into form.

“We all know batsmen can’t score hundreds every time. But to experience a slump and to come out of it will give him great confidence. He’s got a good work ethic and a more mature head on his shoulders nowadays.”

Last year, Shropshire lad Clarke notched five Championship centuries, but many of his innings this season have ended disappointingly in the 20s or 30s.

Mason said: “I think he could definitely play at the highest level, but he’s got some competition. There are some fantastic batters around.”

After Kent had been dismissed for 260, Clarke put pressure on the visitors by figuring in two bumper stands – 131 with George Rhodes and 90 with Joe Leach. It led to Worcestershire gaining their healthy first innings lead which looked awkward for Kent until Denly went on to register his second century in his last three Championship matches.

And with Adam Rouse chipping in with 68 it left the hosts facing a formidable target of 399. But even with the guile of Yasir Khan (5-132) to contend with, Clarke and Mitchell saw it home in fine style.

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