Northeast could be handed captaincy
Kent 107 and 113 for 4 (Northeast 70*, Panesar 3-24) trail Essex 276 by 56 runs
"Ha, I'm not sure," smiled Sam Northeast when the idea of something more than a draw for Kent was floated. Even if the home side were to summon the strength of Denness and Cowdrey (of which they do have one, Fabian, albeit on drinks duty), there are still only two possible victors in this match - Essex and the rain, which claimed 62.4 overs to seize the day.
Rejecting interests from other counties to sign a two year deal with Kent - the first time he has signed a deal longer than 12 months - Northeast looked at ease at the end of the day. With relegation non-existent, the end to Kent's season boils down to pride, both collective and personal.
Unbeaten on 70, after some smart yet cautious batting, Northeast's thoughts turn, yet again, to a first century of the season, having failed to build on four previous scores of fifty or more. "I've been near a few times," he said, wryly, "Just to get over the line would be nice."
There are rumblings that he is in line to take the captaincy next year, with reports that the role was used as a bargaining chip in his new deal quashed by the man himself in an interview with Kent News. James Tredwell's commitments with England have limited his influence at Canterbury this year, with Northeast, at times, operating as an unofficial deputy to vice-captain Geraint Jones.
Whether Kent can awake from their 2012 slumber under the guidance of one so young will be cause for much conjecture, but they should be thankful that they have secured the future of one of their most promising talents.
An early lunch taken at midday meant play eventually got underway at 12.40pm. Rain returned 17 minutes later.
"It'll blow over, lads," James Foster urged from behind the stumps, before the umpires decided to take the players off. They were barely past the boundary rope when the sky cleared, as per Foster's prediction.
The pitch looked to have lost a bit of pace, with little of the lateral movement that was on show yesterday. That being said, the bounce of the pitch has been variable. Nothing has shot through, but a handful of deliveries have popped up off a length, creating some indecision that could create enough chances should Essex find time on the final day to finish Kent off.
David Masters, who bowled six maidens on the bounce before he was taken off an over or so before the rain settled for the day, generated some useful spring on a good length that forced Rob Key to play on. Monty Panesar then drew Daniel Bell-Drummond forward with a good length ball that reared up off the pitch and into the shoulder of the bat for a looping catch to Owais Shah at first slip.
Backed up by his captain with three around the bat, Panesar then changed to over the wicket to drift one into Bredan Nash, who turned the ball around the corner and straight into the hands of leg slip for a golden duck.
All of a sudden, Panesar had renewed enthusiasm; his head high, sizing up Ben Harmison from the top of his mark, as Foster employed yet another in his leg-side cordon. Harmison survived the hat-trick ball, but fell to Panesar five overs later - trapped on the crease by what looked like an arm-ball.
The forecast for day four is worse than day three. Even with the presence of a settled Northeast, just two hours of uninterrupted play should be enough for Essex to push on for the win they deserve.