Kent win but docked eight points
Kent 260 and 72 for 4 beat Essex 144 and 72 for 4 by six wickets
Kent needed barely 90 minutes of the third day's play to wrap up their six-wicket win over County Championship Division Two rivals Essex - but they were later docked eight points after the Canterbury pitch was rated "poor".
Needing 70 to secure a championship and Twenty20 double over their neighbouring county, a nervy Kent side lost four top-order wickets inside 12 overs, only to be steered home by acting captain Geraint Jones with an unbeaten 28 from 14 balls.
Martin van Jaarsveld, batting with a runner due to a groin strain, defied the pain to add an equally useful 21 not out to see Kent to a fifth win of the campaign with more than five sessions to spare. It would have earned them 21 points but pitch liaison officers John Jameson and Tony Pigott reduced that to 13 after deeming that the surface "demonstrated excessive unevenness of bounce".
The third day began with Essex struggling in their second innings and only 64 ahead with one wicket intact. That wicket fell to the 14th delivery of the day when on-loan David Balcombe had Tom Craddock caught behind for one, leaving James Foster high and dry on 49 not out.
It gave Balcombe career-best match figures of 10 for 102 - his first 10-wicket match haul in county cricket. With a day and 91 overs to pursue their modest target of 70, Kent lost Daniel Bell-Drummond to a loose drive to short extra cover then Sam Northeast, pinned leg before on the back foot, with both wickets going to Graham Napier.
Bell-Drummond soon returned to run for the injured van Jaarsveld, but wickets continued to fall as Darren Stevens edged behind to give Napier three for 42 and Joe Denly fell lbw for 17 to a shooting off-cutter from David Masters. It proved the final success for Essex, however, as Van Jaarsveld combined with Jones to see the hosts over the winning line.
Jones played a captain's cameo that included six boundaries, while Van Jaarsveld, batting virtually on one leg, plundered a six and four off Napier to secure Kent's victory just before 12.30pm. Just under three hours later, though, their celebrations were tempered by a statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board which read: "An ECB pitch panel comprising John Jameson and Tony Pigott (pitch liaison officers) was convened to consider the pitch used for the County Championship match at Canterbury commencing on 31 August 2011 between Kent and Essex.
"After interviewing the umpires, the captain and coach of both teams and the Kent head groundsman, the pitch panel determined that the pitch had demonstrated excessive unevenness of bounce and should therefore be rated 'poor'.
"As a consequence and according to regulations, Kent are penalised eight points which will be deducted from their aggregate of 2011 County Championship points."
Uneven bounce as early as day one aided Masters' haul of six for 78 in Kent's first innings, and Essex's Maurice Chambers and then Denly fell to vicious shooters in their sides' respective second innings. Essex's Jaik Mickleburgh, meanwhile, required X-rays after shouldering arms and being bowled via his hand on Wednesday. Kent have confirmed that they will not appeal against the decision.