Hampshire snatch vital victory to stay up
Hampshire 204 and 355 for 9 beat Kent 182 and 247 by 130 runs
Hampshire secured their place in the County championship top flight for another year by clinching a dramatic 130-run win over relegation threatened Kent with only five minutes of the match at Canterbury remaining.
With the minimum allocation of 81 overs for the home second innings bowled out, Kent's last-wicket partners Simon Cook and Malinga Bandara did their utmost to bat out the final 10 minutes of the match. But, in what would have been the penultimate over of the game, Simon Cook (2) prodded forward at seamer James Tomlinson to be superbly caught at short leg by Jimmy Adams.
The defeat, Kent's seventh of the campaign, means they will now have to win away against title-chasing Yorkshire next week to avoid an immediate return to Division Two.
Kent started their second innings an hour into the final day chasing an improbable target of 378 in a minimum of 81 overs, but the loss of two quick wickets left Hampshire as favourites to wrap up victory.
Having set off at the required rate of 4.6 an over, Kent lost opening bat Denly (10) as early as the fifth over when the right-hander instinctively followed a Cork leg-cutter to edge through to the wicketkeeper.
Second-wicket partners Sam Northeast and Rob Key almost made it to lunch only for Key to fall leg before in the penultimate over before the break when prodding forward to a Danny Briggs quicker ball. After lunch Kent's position worsened when Martin van Jaarsveld (5) and Geraint Jones (21) fell in quick succession, van Jaarsveld nicking to second slip while Jones went lbw to the wiles of Cork, who finished with 4 for 43.
Kent re-grouped through Sam Northeast, who hit a stoic 71 from 186 balls, and a counter-attacking cameo of 45 with four fours and six from player of the season Darren Stevens before a secondary post-tea collapse handed Hampshire their crucial win. Stevens was squared up and bowled when driving at a near yorker-length ball from Cork and soon after Northeast fell lbw to a Tomlinson shooter.
Alex Blake, dropped on 12 and 30, rode his luck to reach 46 from 58 balls before he ill-advisedly clipped left-arm spinner Briggs to deep mid-wicket. James Tredwell (14) was adjudged to have gloved a pull to the keeper as Briggs bagged 4 for 93 and, with the 80 overs up, Cork claimed the second new ball to wrap up his side's win.
With the fourth delivery Cork had Matt Coles (1) caught off a leading edge, then, in time added on, Cook steered a lifter to short leg to ensure a miserable end to the campaign for Kent.