Surrey v Kent, The Oval, 3rd day July 12, 2011

Key hundred sets up tight finish

Kent 250 and 270 for 8 v Surrey 387 and 184

Surrey's County Championship clash with Kent hangs in the balance heading into the final day at The Oval after a century by visiting captain Rob Key left side needing 52 runs for victory with just two wickets remaining.

While three of his team-mates needlessly tossed away their wickets, former England batsman Key played sublimely to score the 44th hundred of his career and help Kent to 270 for 8 at stumps on day three. Key featured in three significant stands and survived an additional half-hour's play to go into the deciding day unbeaten on 144 alongside ninth-wicket partner Robbie Joseph.

Chasing 322 to secure only the third victory of their Division Two campaign, Kent lost Joe Denly to the eighth ball of the reply, the right-hander dragging the ball onto his leg stump from a good length off-cutter by Tim Linley.

Then, to Gareth Batty's final ball before lunch, Sam Northeast played back and across the line of a turning delivery to become the 10th lbw victim of the match. Martin van Jaarsveld and Key then combined forces to add 109 in 29 overs either side of lunch to reduce Kent's target below 200. Key reached an 83-ball half-century, but soon after van Jaarsveld went for 35, gloving Linley's leg-side long hop to the wicketkeeper.

Three overs later, Darren Stevens became Zafar Ansari's maiden Championship scalp when he missed an ambitious sweep and went lbw to make it 149 for 4 at tea. Key marched on to his 39th century for Kent and his first of the season from 163 balls as he and Geraint Jones added 67 inside 25 overs, only for Jones to lose his concentration and his wicket.

Charging down the wicket and aiming to dispatch one from Batty into the pavilion, Jones was caught behind off a thin edge that counterpart Steve Davies clung on to at the second attempt. Alex Blake contributed a bright 26 to a 30-run partnership before shouldering arms to a Batty arm ball that grazed off stump, then Wahab Riaz flayed haplessly at his fourth ball from Linley to spoon a catch to cover.

With eight extra overs to bowl, seven of them with the new ball, Surrey snapped up David Balcombe when he fenced at a short one from Linley and steered it to slip to tip the balance firmly in Surrey's favour.

Earlier, Kent took a shade over an hour of the morning to session to take Surrey's three remaining second-innings wickets as the hosts eventually reached 184. Balcombe, on loan for the month from Hampshire, finished with 5 for 63 on his Kent debut.