Lancs follow on, promotion on hold for now
Lancashire 259 (Croft 85, Brown 53, Coles 3-75) and 47 for 2 trail Kent 570 for 8 dec by 264 runs
Aspirations shifted almost as quickly as the cloud cover that skirted past the St Lawrence ground in Canterbury as Lancastrian dreams of promotion switched to staving off an innings defeat by Kent during an action packed third day of Championship cricket.
Lancashire, the Division Two leaders, had resumed their first innings with a target of 350 uppermost in their minds - the figure they required to clinch the four batting bonus points that would have secured their return to the top flight. Yet within 78 overs, the visitors had been skittled for 259 and, were already two wickets down after being made to follow-on for the first time this season. Such are the vagaries of life in the second tier.
Having banked four points for their impressive 570 for 8 declared, Kent continued to boss the game with the ball as Matt Coles bagged 3 for 75 to help dismiss the visitors by 4.45pm - some 162 runs short of avoiding the follow on. Matt Hunn, Darren Stevens and Calum Haggett chipped in with a brace apiece, ensuring Lancashire batted again in the face of a 311-run first-innings deficit.
Yet Red Rose woes continued. Within a flash Karl Brown departed for a second-ball duck, trapped on the crease and leg before to give Coles his 61st wicket of the Championship campaign. Lancashire's dismal match continued when, with only two balls of the day remaining, Alviro Petersen was bowled following a hot-blooded advance to Tredwell and attempted slog toward cow corner.
Kent had gone into the fixture with little to play for other than end-of-season pride but to their credit Sam Northeast's side put in a thoroughly professional performance in whittling their way through the Lancashire order.
They hosts fielded sharply and bowled tight lines to pick up five wickets in the first session. Haseeb Hameed nicked a Stevens away-swinger to the cordon and Petersen was pinned lbw three balls later by the same bowler to depart without troubling. Ashwell Prince, so often a thorn in Kentish sides, reached 17 before he aimed to cut a Hunn offcutter that cramped the left-hander and resulted in a catch behind the wicket.
Brown did his bit to stop the rot with an 86-ball 50, but his airy drive soon after the landmark was snaffled at the second attempt by Ben Harmison at third slip. Alex Davies made a late decision to try and shoulder arms, but only succeeded in deflecting the delivery from Coles on to the base of middle stump to send the visitors wobbling in at lunch on 104 for 5.
Visiting skipper Steven Croft dug in to bat time thereafter, reaching a 108-ball half-century for his part in a sixth-wicket stand with Jordan Clark (44) that ended when the allrounder steered one from Haggett to the slips.
Tom Bailey perished just before tea when driving over a James Tredwell arm ball, but worse followed after the interval when Lancashire lost their last three wickets for 17 runs. Glen Chapple top-edged a hook to long leg, Simon Kerrigan nicked a leg glance to the keeper and, 15 short of his hundred and with only the last man for company, Croft aimed to leg to be pinned lbw by Coles.
If not totally flat, Lancashire's promotion Champagne is, at the very least on ice, albeit until their next game at home to Surrey - their only realistic rivals for the title.