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Kent edging in on victory
Kent edging in on victory

Lancashire’s young batters staged a gutsy fightback on the third day of the Vitality County Championship match at Emirates Old Trafford but Kent need only 93 runs with nine wickets in hand to clinch victory on the final morning.  

Keaton Jennings’ team were bowled out for 332 in their second innings, thereby leaving the visitors 164 to win their first game of the season. 

However, faced with what seemed a tricky chase, Ben Compton and Daniel Bell-Drummond made light of the loss of Zak Crawley for one and had steered their side to 71 for one at the close. 

There is, therefore, only a slim chance that Lancashire might win a game after following on for the first time since 1888, when they beat Oxford University at Old Trafford.

The morning session began badly for Lancashire when Tom Bruce was bowled for 12 when playing down the wrong line to Wes Agar. 

George Balderson and George Bell then put together a 75-run partnership for the sixth wicket that was only ended when Balderson, having made a composed 48, attempted to cut a ball from Jack Leaning and edged a catch to Bell-Drummond in the gully. 

However, Balderson and Bell’s stand had ensured that Lancashire avoided an innings defeat and their calm accumulation was maintained by Bell and Matty Hurst either side of lunch. 

Bell reached his second fifty of the season off 114 balls when he pulled a long hop from Joe Denly to the midwicket boundary but was well caught by Harry Finch for 65 when he couldn’t avoid a good ball from Agar and edged a catch wide to the keeper’s right. 

But the pair’s seventh-wicket stand of 78 had extended their side’s lead to 106 and the good work was continued by Hurst and Tom Hartley, with the former reaching his fifty off 134 balls with only one four. 

Hurst and Hartley brought up their side’s third 50-plus partnership of the day shortly after tea but any hopes Lancashire might set their opponents a target in excess of 200 were quickly extinguished when they lost their last three wickets for as many runs in 15 balls. 

The patient Hurst was caught at slip by Bell-Drummond off Parkinson for 58, Tom Bailey was leg before to Agar for a single and then Hartley was bowled round his legs by Parkinson for 35 to leave the Kent leg-spinner with figures of three for 70 on his return to Old Trafford. 

Agar took three for 65 and returned match figures of seven for 100. 

Kent’s pursuit of their modest target began badly when Zak Crawley was leg before to Balderson’s seventh ball of the innings for one but Ben Compton and Daniel Bell-Drummond survived a series of confident appeals, many of them coming from Nathan Lyon, who bowled superbly and was unlucky not to enjoy at least some success. 

And the turn extracted by Hartley and Lyon in the evening session suggests that Kent’s pursuit might not be completely straightforward on the final morning.  

Wes Agar, the Kent seamer, said: “To make them follow-on put us in a position of power but we knew it would be harder in their second innings but I’m really proud of the way we kept fighting to create chances.”

“It was a very different day today. With the sun out we had to put more energy into the wicket but Lancashire are a tough team and they are known for that.”

“To watch the boys go out tonight under pressure and  to be only one down at close of play is something that I’m really proud of and we’re really proud of as a group.”

“Parky bowls 40 overs and goes at two an over. He’s always asking questions and he’s so consistent. A lot of spinners have to be patient and Parky showed immense skill and immense control today. I’m really glad he got his wickets at the end.”

“On a hot day, the spinners do give us that rest and allow us to have energy on the new ball when it becomes available. If we’re tired, it just gets away from us.”

“I’m loving being back at Kent, it’s like a home away from home for me.”  

George Bell, the Lancashire batter said: “At the start of day we said everyone aim to bat for at least an hour, try and get through as long as we can. If we achieve that we would have got through the whole day.”

“We didn’t quite get through the whole day. It would have been nice to get a lead of 200, it would have been a good score. We’ve given ourselves a fighting chance with 164, and although they are 70-1 now we’ve had quite a few chances.”

“They need another 90 odd but with four men around the bat, creating chances and hopefully we come back tomorrow and create more chances then anything could happen.”

“It’s turning which is good news for us. Hopefully the wicket continues to break up a bit more and we can get a few wickets in the first session, get on a roll and once we do then get on top and burying them if we get the chance.”

“Obviously it’s going to be tough but we’re backing our bowlers to do the job. We’ve let ourselves down with the bat in the first innings again and we’re gutted about that.”

“Today was about showing fight and get back into the game. The next game we can try and do that straight away rather than it taking for us to get rolled over to do it. It showed we’ve got it in us to do that.”

“It was nice that the young lads, me, Tommy, Hursty and Balders were batting for long periods. The young lads showed character which is what we pride ourselves on. Today was about showing a bit of grit.”