Lancashire promoted despite 'worst' game
Kent 570 for 8 dec (Northeast 139, Key 113, Stevens 92) drew with Lancashire 259 (Croft 85, Brown 53) and 258 for 4 (Croft 72*, Davies 58*)
Lancashire were celebrating on Kentish soil for the third time in as many weeks after securing LV= County Championship promotion from Division Two after courageously batting out the final day at Canterbury.
Fronting his side's backs-to-the-wall display Steven Croft, their captain, batted a shade over four hours for 72 and was still out in the middle at 4.55pm - with his side on 258 for 4 - to shake hands on his side's fifth draw of the campaign that secured five points and sealed their return to the top flight.
Having already beaten Kent by 51 runs here in the Royal London Cup tie of August 8, Lancashire returned a week later to win the day once more on by securing the tie that took them to the NatWest T20 Blast finals day. And it was their fifth-wicket pairing Croft and Alex Davies who ensured Kent would be denied success once more with a dogged, fourth-day stand that extended 50 overs.
With no quarter asked or given, the Lancashire pair added an unbroken 120 while fending off all that Kent could bowl at them with old and new ball alike. It was a spirited display that paid respect to the competition and division alike and a performance of which Ashley Giles, their cricket director and head coach was justifiably proud.
"It was a strange week because we should be absolutely over the moon, but there are parts of this game that we're a bit disappointed with how we've played," Giles said. "It's probably our worst game in the Championship, although we've come away with a draw. We lost to Gloucester at home, but probably played better cricket.
"We've done what we came to achieve, which at the start of the year was promotion and winning the T20 at the start of the week was an amazing feeling for everyone.
"Today, I thought they were brilliant. This morning we asked for that resilience and fight. Good sides win a lot, but they also become very difficult to beat. Those four guys, particularly, I thought it was a really fantastic effort."
Starting the day on 47 for 2, following on and still 264 in arrears, few would have backed Lancashire to see out the day, yet Kent, having totally dominated the opening three days with bat and ball, were restricted to only two bowling successes.
Third-wicket partners Ashwell Prince and Haseeb Hameed started circumspectly, but were quick to pounce on the occasional loose delivery served up by an equally patient Kent bowling attack. They added 62 inside 17 overs before Kent finally got their breakthrough by removing Prince for 39. Pushing forward but also well outside the line of a Darren Stevens in-ducker, the diminutive left-hander was rapped low on his front pad and, after time for reflection, sent packing leg before by umpire Graham Lloyd to bring Croft to the crease at 11.42am.
Kent winkled out another in the mid-session when Calum Haggett removed opening bat Hasseb for 44 to make it 138 for 4. Playing back to a full-length, cross-seam delivery that skidded through, Haseeb had his furniture rearranged to end a stoic 203-minute stay.
Thereafter Croft and Davies dug in, adding 28 during an attritional stint of 28.4 overs through to tea. They refused to yield to the new ball and continued after the resumption as Croft reached his second half-century of the game after three hours 23 minutes' batting. It included seven fours.
Davies also reached the landmark after 157 minutes, his 50 also included seven fours and came from 136-balls faced. He also saw it through to stumps, reaching 58 in almost three hours and scoring only seven boundaries.
The pair shook hands as they walked off, but Lancashire will only truly celebrate once the Division Two title is secure.
In praise of Croft and Davies, Kent allrounder Darren Stevens said: "To be fair, they batted brilliantly and we've already spoken about how many of our lads would have the temperament to do the same thing. It was a great effort.
"That said, I didn't feel we had the rub of the green today. There were so many play and misses, a few snicks through the cordon to third man and a nick to the keeper by Davies that wasn't given, but you can't deny the class of their lads for batting it out for the draw.
"They've got one over on us three times in the past month here, added to which they turned us over in the Championship up at their place earlier in the season, so we owe them one for sure. Next time we come up against them Lancashire can be sure of a good fight, and hopefully that will be with Kent back in the top flight as well."