Kent in control after Essex collapse
Essex 144 and 180 for 9 v Kent 260
Kent look set to wrap up a convincing County Championship win over Division Two rivals Essex with a day to spare, but may yet pay the price for preparing a below-par pitch for this end-of-season encounter at Canterbury.
Essex closed on 180 for 9 in their second innings, a lead of 64, after David Masters had taken six for 78 to help dismiss Kent for 260. After the loss of 15 wickets on day one, a further 14 fell at St Lawrence today as the ECB pitch liaison officer, John Jameson - the former Warwickshire and England batsman - watched from the pavilion.
Variable bounce undid several batsmen and spinners found some help from a tinder-dry and cracked surface, yet other players still added to their own demise through poor shot selection. Jameson will announce his adjudication once the game finishes. Batting for a second time by 2pm on day two, Essex lost Tom Westley in the fourth over when he had his off stump removed out by David Balcombe.
Eight overs later, Owais Shah shuffled across his stumps on the back foot to a Balcombe off-cutter to go lbw for 15 then, just before tea, Billy Godleman undid his good work and patience in scoring 36 by charging down the pitch to James Tredwell's fourth ball, yorking himself to an arm-ball that pegged back leg stump.
The collapse gathered momentum when Balcombe returned after the break to snare Adam Wheater leg before then Matt Coles replaced him at the Nackington Road End to have Jake Mickleburgh and Ryan ten Doeschate caught behind, though the latter looked distinctly unhappy with the decision.
Tredwell then returned to the fore to have Graham Napier well held at deep midwicket from a top-edged clip, then Masters sent back a return catch to the bowler to make it 156 for 8. Coles returned to send back Maurice Chambers leg before with a shooting off-cutter, but James Foster (44 not out) and last man Tom Craddock survived to stumps, at least taking the game into a third day.
Kent resumed at the start of the day on 160 for 5, representing a 16-run lead on first innings with five wickets still intact. The day began with a potentially match-winning sixth-wicket stand worth 97 between Geraint Jones and Tredwell.
Jones posted the second 50 of the game and only his third of the season from 99 balls and with five fours. The partnership ended when Jones missed an attempted sweep against Tom Craddock to go leg before for 54 after 144 minutes at the crease.
Tredwell, having been dropped at second slip when on 16, reached 47 before he played back to the fifth ball of a new spell from Masters, his former Kent team-mate, to fall leg before wicket.
In a purple patch of three for one in nine balls Masters also snared Adam Ball, well caught by keeper James Foster from a low inside-edge, and then, with the last ball before lunch, had Coles caught behind off an ambitious drive. Soon after the interval Balcombe went for seven, leaving Kent with a useful first-innings lead of 116.