Game in the balance at Canterbury
Game in the balance at Canterbury

An Ollie Robinson century put Kent in the driving seat of their final County Championship match of the season, but his dismissal off the final ball of the day means things are in the balance heading into the final day.

Robinson, alongside Tawanda Muyeye (76 not out), helped Kent recover from 103/4 to close on 275/5 after the hosts had bowled Middlesex out for 363, leaving 372 runs to win.

The partnership put Kent in control, but Robinson’s wicket means either team can still win Division Three on the final day of the season.

Middlesex resumed on 298/6, leading by 307 runs, and reached 300 for the innings almost immediately with a neat clip for two by John Simpson. Marcus O’Riordan then struck however in his first over of the day as Luke Hollman dragged the spinner to Nathan Gilchrist for 29.

The new ball was taken, and Matt Milnes struck straight away, with Toby Roland-Jones chasing a wide one and getting a thick outside edge to Jack Leaning at third slip. 

Simpson was the last recognised batsman and decided to try and take the attack to the Kent bowlers, but Matt Milnes bowled him with a knuckle ball for 46. The lead passed 350 with a nice cover drive for four off the bat of Ethan Bamber, and the tailender continued to attack and play some shots.

He was eventually bowled by Milnes for 25, with the Kent man picking up a five-fer in the process, meaning Middlesex were all out for 363, setting Kent 373 to win.

Jordan Cox continued his tough run of form with the bat in red ball cricket when he edged Tim Murtagh to the slip cordon for one, before Zak Crawley and Daniel Bell-Drummond began to rebuild.

Bell-Drummond looked comfortable but too edged to slip, clipping Ethan Bamber to Stevie Eskinazi for 15 to leave Kent 48/2.

Martin Andersson was then brought into the attack and stepped the pace up a notch, having Jack Leaning LBW for 7. 

Ollie Robinson and Crawley began to rebuild and 100 was brought up, but Crawley was LBW to former England man Toby Roland-Jones for 47 with Kent struggling.

Robinson was dropped off Hollman, but reached his 50 from 69 balls just before tea. He and Tawanda Muyeye made their ways to the interval with Kent 147/7, still requiring 226 more runs to win.

The 50-partnership passed after lunch and the 200 followed not too long after. Muyeye continued stylishly and brought up his 50 with a fine cut for four; shot also brought up the 100-partnership as the duo began to accelerate.

Middlesex thought they finally had Robinson caught on 76, with short cover celebrating. Robinson stood his ground however, and the umpires agreed the ball had bounced and gave not out.

Robinson survived a scare on 94, an passed the 150-partnership with a cut for three. That took him to 99, and he reached his three figures soon after from 145 balls including 12 fours. 

Middlesex took the new ball late on, and Tim Murtagh struck with the very last ball of the day, with Robinson edging behind to John Simpson for 112, breaking the partnership at 172. 

Kent will need 98 more runs to win when play continues on day four, with Middlesex requiring five wickets for victory.

Kent’s Ollie Robinson said: “It’s disappointing to have got out to the last ball of the game, I’d have liked to have been there tomorrow. Tawanda and I were trying to knuckle down there and get us into a position where we could win tomorrow. I think we’re potentially favourites, but the first hour is going to be crucial with the new ball. Hopefully Tawanda, Marcus and Stevo can see us home.” 

On the appeal when was on 75: “I didn’t think it had carried, Tawanda was convinced it hadn’t carried, the umpires got together and they came to the conclusion that they didn’t think it had, so there’s not much I can do other than carry on batting in that position. There’s always going to be a bit of niggle but the umpire’s made a decision and you just carry on doing what you’re doing.” 

Middlesex’s Ethan Bamber said: “We’d obviously have liked the afternoon session to have gone differently but Muyeye and Robinson played fantastically. I was guilty of searching for it a little bit, but it’s been a good game for the neutral and hopefully tomorrow will be a good morning. I think it’s been a good wicket throughout and it’s a good game of cricket.”

On the possibility of an “old Man showdown” between Murtagh and Stevens tomorrow: “I’m backing Tim!”