Northeast leads the way for Kent
Kent 291 for 5 (Key 119, Northeast 140, Tomlinson 3-45) trail Hampshire 292 by one run
Kent captain Rob Key and opening partner Sam Northeast each scored centuries as Hampshire's bowlers were on the wrong end of a drubbing before fighting back with a flurry of late wickets on day two of the County Championship Division Two clash at Southampton.
Key and Northeast compiled an opening stand of 252 as Hampshire struggled to cope on an easy-paced wicket. 22-year-old Northeast, who impressed against South Africa a couple of weeks ago, made 140 and 33-year-old Key scored 119 before falling in the last over of the day as Kent, in response to Hampshire's first innings total of 292, closed on 291 for five. In a game that could have a bearing on the promotion places, it could prove to have been a pivotal day for both sides.
Hampshire were 292 for nine overnight but their innings lasted only two balls before Danny Briggs edged Mark Davies into the slips where James Tredwell completed the catch. Davies finished with three for 36 and new ball partner Charlie Shreck took three for 85.
Key and Northeast soon made Hampshire's total look inadequate as they remained together until the 77th over before Kent finally lost their first wicket. Northeast had faced 259 balls for his fifth career century and hit 14 fours before being caught behind by wicketkeeper Michael Bates off Sean Ervine.
At that stage Kent were only 40 behind and had nine wickets in hand but in the evening session Hampshire fought back. Ben Harmison was the next to go with the total on 273, snapped up at first slip by Liam Dawson off David Balcombe as the prelude to a minor collapse in which four wickets fell for 18 runs.
Brendan Nash made only five before James Tomlinson found a way through his defences and the left-arm pace bowler struck twice more before the close. Mike Powell was caught behind for two and then with only four balls remaining before stumps, Key's day-long vigil at last came to an end.
Former England batsman Key, whose century was his 46th in first-class matches, had looked secure throughout until he followed Tomlinson's out-swinger and Bates again clutched the catch. Key's century occupied 234 balls and he hit 16 fours but was the junior partner to Northeast as Kent looked set to build a formidable total.
Tomlinson, who had little luck earlier in the day, finished with figures of three for 45 as Hampshire struck back to give them fresh hope of limiting Kent's lead.