Hall and O'Brien return to haunt Kent
Northamptonshire 407 for 6 v Kent 280
Former Kent allrounders Andrew Hall and Niall O'Brien returned to their old Canterbury stomping ground to bat Northamptonshire into the ascendancy at the mid-point of the County Championship Division Two match.
Responding to Kent's disappointing first-day total of 280, Hall, O'Brien and Chaminda Vaas all posted half-centuries as the visitors closed day two sitting pretty on 407 for 6 - an overall lead of 127.
Things might have gone better for Kent had they held an early chance, but they were made to pay when Darren Stevens dropped Stephen Peters from the fifth ball of the day at third slip. However, the chance was not taken - and Northamptonshire cracked on to score 405 runs on the day.
Peters made use of the let-off by contributing 33 to an opening stand worth 73 with Mal Loye which ended with a first wicket in Kent colours for county trialist and ex-Surrey seamer Neil Saker. Saker, on his Kent debut, got a delivery to hold its own against the Nackington Road slope and take a thick edge through to second slip.
Six overs later, Saker produced another beauty - a lifting leg-cutter - which also grazed the bat to give Geraint Jones a regulation catch behind the stumps and send Loye packing for 40. Rob White upped the tempo with a swashbuckling 50 from 31 balls with nine fours as he and Alex Wakely added 59 in 10 overs for the third wicket, until White fell just before lunch for 54.
Attempting to cut at a delivery too close to the body, he went leg before to give Bexleyheath schoolboy Adam Riley his maiden championship wicket on his first-class debut. Riley, a flame-haired and wiry off-spinner, further impressed after the lunch break by having Wakely (43) and David Sales (22) both caught at long-on to bring former Kent team-mates O'Brien and Hall together.
The impish O'Brien went for his shots while Northamptonshire skipper Hall, was content to play the support act, scoring only 34 runs in the two hours either side of tea during a tortoise and hare stand which added 89 in 31 overs.
O'Brien fell soon after the resumption for an attractive 62 from 94 balls after flat-batting a turning delivery from Riley into the hands of Rob Key at cover point. It gave Riley his fourth wicket - although they cost a mammoth 132 runs.
Hall accelerated thereafter in tandem with number eight Vaas, the Sri Lankan all-rounder who has opened the batting in Twenty20 internationals. The pair looked untroubled in posting an unbroken 111 for the seventh wicket through to stumps, leaving Kent with it all to do on day three.
Having already notched up an innings and 159-run win over Kent at Wantage Road on April 16, Northamptonshire again look firm favourites for victory in what has thus far been a one-sided rematch.