Kent’s hopes of salvaging any sort of result from their 164th Canterbury Week game with Northamptonshire rest squarely on the shoulders of Rob Key after the visitors continued to dominate proceedings at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence.
Key, the former England bat and Kent’s club captain, set out his stall to anchor the host’s second innings as they went in at stumps at the mid-point of the match on 81 for one – a match deficit of 150 runs.
Having conceded a first innings lead of 231, Kent started their second innings a shade after 4pm but lost opening bat Daniel Bell-Drummond for 26 when he chopped a leaden-footed back foot cut against Ben Sanderson onto his off stump.
Key and Joe Denly dug in thereafter, but Key should have gone with his score on seven only for Olly Stone to grass a sharp low chance at slip off the bowling of Ben Sanderson.
As it was, Key, the leading all-time run scorer on the Canterbury ground, survived though to the close on 22 while Denly reached 27 not out.
Earlier in the day Northamptonshire’s ninth-wicket stand of 82 between Sanderson and Mohammad Azharullah helped them secure an impressive first innings lead.
Resuming on their first day total of 172 for two Northamptonshire lost their third wicket to only the fifth ball of the day when Rob Keogh drove back a return catch to Matt Coles. The bowler thrust out his right hand in the follow-through to cling on to an instinctive, reflex chance that sent Keogh packing without addition to his overnight score of 11.
Moments later Ben Duckett, the diminutive left-hander, celebrated his fourth first-class century of the summer, his third in championship cricket, from 115 balls and with 13 fours.
Duckett was apologising soon after however, when his suicidal call for a single to extra cover led to Richard Levi’s run out for 25. Darren Stevens’ direct hit with a sidearm throw demolished middle stump to complete the dismissal.
Duckett followed just before the interval when he went back to cut, only to be snared lbw by a quicker arm-ball by James Tredwell. Duckett’s 145 came from 199 balls and included 16 fours.
During the interval Kent’s Bell-Drummond and wicketkeeper Sam Billings were awarded their county caps by Kent president Lady Kingsdown.
Having gone into lunch on 263 for five, Northamptonshire added only another nine runs before Saif Zaib, the 17-year-old batsman making his first-class debut, played late across a full-length Coles in-swinger to go for a 12-ball duck.
Stone fenced at Coles’s next delivery to edge to the keeper and, at 272 for seven and with barely a 100 runs separating the sides, the game appeared up for grabs once more.
However, Kent’s decision to take the second new ball caused them to lose the control Tredwell’s off-spin had afforded them at the Pavilion End and with him out of the attack runs flowed freely at both ends in the face of some short and wayward pace bowling.
Josh Cobb eventually went for 30, after following and feathering a Stevens’ away-swinger to the keeper, but then Sanderson teamed up with Azharullah to frustrate Kent for another hour.
Sanderson, a former Yorkshire seamer and non-contracted player, chipped in with 42 before clipping a looping catch to mid-wicket, while Azharullah posted his maiden first-class 50 from 71 balls and with eight fours.
Northamptonshire’s fun ended when last man Maurice Chambers (2) skied to mid-on to give Tredwell a third wicket and send the visitors in at tea with a lead of 231. Coles, despite occasional lapses in length, finished with three for 118.