Mahmood leads Kent's fight
Kent 242 and 292 for 6 v Middlesex 258 for 7
Kent allrounder Azhar Mahmood posted his third half-century of the Championship season to help set up an intriguing final day against Middlesex in Canterbury. Kent went in at stumps on day three with a total of 292 for 6 with Mahmood unbeaten on 69 in tandem with James Tredwell (10 not out) - representing a lead of 231 going into the final day.
Mahmood had gone to the wicket with Kent seemingly in trouble on 168 for 5 - barely a hundred ahead - yet he and Geraint Jones joined forces to add 93 useful runs for the sixth wicket and make sure the game went into a final day. Having finally dismissed the visitors for 303, to concede a first innings deficit of 61, Kent had wiped only 33 off the arrears when they lost opener Rob Key for 16.
Pushing with firm hands and no discernable foot movement, the home captain edged behind off Corey Collymore then, two balls later, Sam Northeast departed for just one when he nicked a Steve Finn leg-cutter and was well held low down at third slip by Sam Robson. Joe Denly and Martin van Jaarsveld then teamed up to add 54 in level-headed fashion before Denly, three short of a deserved 50, was drawn into the drive by Steven Finn to be caught in the gully.
Soon after the tea interval Van Jaarsveld - without a championship century this summer - had his middle and off stumps rearranged by Tim Murtagh having reached 66 from 129 balls. With their side seemingly in trouble, Mahmood and Jones (45) came together to ensure Middlesex would have a sizeable last-day run-chase.
However, Finn returned late in the day to pluck out Jones' off stump to ensure the result remained in the balance. At the start of the day, Kent required a little more than an hour to take the three remaining Middlesex wickets in the space of 14 overs.
It took the second new ball and a double bowling change to finally break a doughty stand between Dawid Malan and Murtagh which added 58 for the eighth wicket. Murtagh, having been hit on the helmet by a Matt Coles bouncer when on 18, added only two more to his score before he fell to the fifth ball of the day from Darren Stevens. Attempting to pull, he skied to wicketkeeper Geraint Jones - who ran forward to claim the catch near the stumps at the striker's end.
Following his release from the England squad on duty against India at The Oval, Finn - who replaced nominated player Steve Crook - then saw Malan's 144-ball stay come to an end for 68 when the left-hander aimed to cut the third delivery of the morning from Wahab Riaz, only to pick out James Tredwell at slip.
Finn clipped four off his legs against Riaz to take Middlesex past 300 for a third batting bonus point, but he also perished when top-edging an attempted pull shot to mid-on and give Riaz figures of three wickets for 52 runs on his farewell appearance for the county.