Stevens ton makes Northamptonshire wait
Kent 280 and 255 for 7 v Northamptonshire 493
A century by Darren Stevens saved Kent from a second innings defeat of the season against Northamptonshire and helped take this County Championship Division Two clash at Canterbury into its final day.
Having conceded a first innings lead of 213 Kent looked odds on to capitulate to a three-day defeat as they slumped to 118 for six soon after lunch, but Stevens found allies in James Tredwell and then Adam Ball to take the game into a fourth day.
With Tredwell, Stevens added 45 for the seventh wicket, to which the England spinner chipped in with nine runs, then teenager Ball played a responsible innings of 30 from 79 balls that helped Stevens reach three figures and Kent into the final day.
That appeared wholly unlikely when the hosts lost six wickets in the mid-session having finally dismissed Northamptonshire for 493 some 20 minutes before lunch. The collapse followed an opening stand of 59 between Sam Northeast and Rob Key who then went in fairy quick succession for 29 and 34 respectively.
Northeast nicked to second slip while Key looked unhappy to be given leg before to counterpart Andrew Hall. Key may yet face censure from the ECB should umpires Nigel Cowley and Rob Bailey report his show of dissent. Martin van Jaarsveld edged a beauty from Lee Daggett to slip and then Geraint Jones, pushing half forward, went leg before as the ball from Chaminda Vaas hit pad then bat to make it 98 for 4.
In showing their inexperience, Alex Blake charged down the pitch to be stumped and James Goodman was undone by one from Jack Brooks that appeared to keep low to snare him lbw. Tredwell went in the same manner to Vaas, but Stevens and Ball combined nicely throughout the final 90 minutes of the day to ease Kent into a 42 run lead by stumps. But with only three wickets remaining their fate would appear sealed.
Stevens became the first Kent batsman this season to score a hundred on home soil when a Daggett mis-field at long leg allowed him to sprint through for a second run and post a 97-ball ton with 13 fours and a six.
Kent had made their first breakthrough of the day in the eighth over to finally end a seventh-wicket stand worth 134 in 39 overs between Northamptonshire captain Hall and fellow overseas pro Vaas. The Sri Lankan had contributed 66 from 132 balls to the partnership before chasing a wide drive against Stevens only to edge through to the Kent keeper Jones.
Ten overs later Hall moved to his second century of the summer against his former county in a fortunate manner. Barely four weeks since reaching three figures against them at Wantage Road, Hall reached the landmark again by toe-ending an attempted pull against Neil Saker wide of backward point for a lucky couple of runs.
After almost five hours at the crease the South African fell three balls later. Aiming an airy waft against Saker he too edged through to Jones to go for exactly one hundred, having scored 12 fours. The tail fell away as Saker claimed 3 for 111 and Adam Riley 4 for 145 on their Kent debuts.
Kent's second innings looked in real danger of capitulating until a century from Stevens saw them reach stumps. However, Northamptonshire will probably only need the morning session of the final day to finish proceedings off.