Ed Smith: century in vain © Getty Images

Northamptonshire clung on to their top-division status with a last-gasp win at Canterbury which sentenced Kent - and the four-day county champions Warwickshire - to second-division cricket in next year's totesport League.

It all looked rosy for Kent as the unsettled Ed Smith stroked his way to a neat 106, in pursuit of Northants' modest 219 for 7. But Smith fell in the penultimate over to Paul Rofe, Northants' South Australian fast bowler, and Niall O'Brien and Rob Ferley could make little of the last over, bowled by the South African Johann Louw under the St Lawrence lights.

In the end it was a big-hitting knock from Kent old boy Ben Phillips - who also took the catch that ended Smith's innings - which did for Kent. He smashed 44 not out from just 27 balls at the end of the Northants innings, including 20 from the last over, bowled by the hapless Antiguan Robert Joseph. It proved the difference between the two sides in the end.

Northants zoomed up to fourth place with 32 points, ahead of Gloucestershire and Essex (also 32) as they had more wins, and leapfrogging Warwickshire (30) who are now relegated. Behind them Kent were stuck on 24, while Surrey, last year's champions, finished bottom this time with only 22 points.

National League Division One

Northamptonshire 219 for 7 (Afzaal 47, Brophy 42, Phillips 44*) beat Kent 215 for 7 (Smith 106, Louw 3-37) by 4 runs at Canterbury