Stevens helps scrapping Kent avoid follow-on
Lancashire 68 for 3 and 320 v Kent 213
Lancashire's hopes of winning their opening three Championship games for the first time in 15 years remain very much intact despite the efforts of Darren Stevens whose unbeaten century frustrated Glen Chapple's bowlers on the second day of their Championship match against Kent at Old Trafford.
Replying to the home side's first-innings total of 320, Rob Key's batsmen had struggled to 97 for 7 before Stevens' 92-run eighth-wicket partnership with Matt Coles changed the contest.
Stevens had made 101 not out by the time Kent were bowled out for 213. Lancashire added 68 to their first-innings lead of 107 before bad light and rain ended play 15 overs early, but they had lost Tom Smith, for his sixth successive single figure Championship score, Paul Horton and Stephen Moore in the process.
This leaves Glen Chapple's side with a lead of 175 with seven wickets in hand and two days of this fluctuating contest still to play. However, while Lancashire's Sajid Mahmood will look back on the day with pleasure - he claimed 5 for 55 from 18.5 overs - it was Stevens' innings which altered the balance of the game.
Mixing doughty defence with uninhibited aggression, the former Leicestershire all-rounder, who had taken four wickets in Lancashire's first innings, clubbed two mighty sixes and 10 fours in his 129-ball stay at the wicket.
When Makhaya Ntini was last man out - caught at leg gully off the back of the bat attempting to avoid a Mahmood bouncer - Lancashire's lead had been reduced to a healthy advantage, but nothing like the abundance they had envisaged earlier in the day.
Stevens needed his luck - Chapple dropped a steepler at deep mid-on when he was 53 - but he perhaps deserved a little good fortune and his performance spiked the guns of a home attack led by the fired-up Mahmood.
Most of Kent's top order were unable to cope with Lancashire's purposeful and well-directed new-ball bowling in the pre-lunch session. Only Geraint Jones survived for long, and even he came in for lunch knowing he had ridden his luck.
Chapple started the rot, and also claimed his 700th first-class wicket for the county, when he moved one away from Key and in the next over, Joe Denly received a savage lifter from Mahmood which he gloved to Sutton.
Martin van Jaarsveld then fell for Chapple's three-card trick and tamely gave a catch to backward short-leg Simon Kerrigan, who had been deliberately placed there a few balls previously.
When Sam Northeast sliced Tom Smith to Ashwell Prince in the gully, Kent were 53 for 4 and thoroughly in the cart. Jones' irresponsible slash gave Mahmood his second wicket three overs after the break, Smith's swing then accounted for James Hockley and a stunning one-handed diving catch by Steven Croft in the gully saw the end of Simon Cook.
While wickets fell at the other end, Stevens had been adopting a policy of selective aggression and he maintained this policy in company with Coles, who offered useful support with 33, as Lancashire's hopes of enforcing the follow-on sagged.